When the self-driving car revolution comes, how will you spend your free time in your vehicle?

Google self-driving car
CC BY 2.0 Don DeBold

Some experts foresee millions of self-driving cars on the roads within the next five years, which could free up some drive time for other activities.

Automation, whether it's in the home, the factory, or vehicles, is gearing up to be one of the most significant aspects of the near future, and could bring about radical change across a number of different facets of modern life.

Factory automation promises to increase efficiencies and production, although at a cost of reducing jobs in certain sectors, and automation at home promises to not only make homes more convenient, but to also increase energy efficiency and add a layer of control, although at the risk of opening up appliances to cyber exploits. And automation in vehicles (or more precisely, autonomous and self-driving vehicles) promises to increase road safety, decrease transportation costs, and reduce the need for personal car ownership, although at the risk of giving us way too much time to stare at our smartphones.

But seriously, if we have the option of turning over the driving to a (sort of) artificial intelligence, we could put that time to use doing any number of other things, productive or otherwise. So how would you spend that 'extra' time when you would normally be watching the road (and traffic signs and other drivers, and navigating)? I, for one, will welcome the chance to do other things while driving, especially on longer trips when keeping the vehicle between the lines and within speed limits is about as exciting as it gets.

A recent survey of 2000 drivers from around the world explored that question, and the answers offer some insights into human behavior, as well as the particular differences in how people differ in their opinions on self-driving cars, depending on their gender, their location, and their profession.

Self-driving car survey results© Auto Insurance Center

First off, it turns out that even though we're squarely in the middle of the digital age, where videos and social sharing are taking center stage in our lives, many of those surveyed would choose to read a book instead of driving. Secondly, a large percentage of drivers in certain countries would choose to watch the road anyway, even if the car is essentially driving itself. And third, while some states' residents would choose to get more work done, people in Alaska would most likely spend their self-driving time having sex.

Self-driving car survey results© Auto Insurance Center

Some interesting splits in attitudes to self-driving technology surfaced in this survey, most notably the difference between men and women, as 47.4% of men said they would purchase a self-driving car if they had the chance, as opposed to 33.6% of women. And when it comes to nationality, 33% of Japanese drivers surveyed said they would not get in to a self-driving car, as compared with 23% of UK and US drivers, yet only 3.1% of Chinese drivers would avoid riding in self-driving cars.

When it comes to the interior of self-driving cars, the survey results indicate that adding a refrigerator to the car was the choice for almost 20% of respondents, followed by a bed (15%), table and chairs (14.7%), and the desire for an in-car stocked bar was expressed by 5%, while a massage table in the vehicle was of interest to just 2.9% of drivers. More results from the survey are available at Auto Insurance Center.

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