More Proof We Aren’t Ready to Embrace Self-Driving Cars

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It seems like a brilliant idea. Get rid of that pesky, error-prone human driver and make the car smart enough to do the job itself. It’s a wonderful picture of the future, but it doesn’t look like the public is ready to embrace the idea any time soon.

A recent study took a look at the willingness of people to buy self-driving cars. As expected, the younger the respondent the more likely they were to say yes, but it wasn’t the overwhelming acceptance you might expect.

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When asked how likely they would be to buy a self-driving car that still required a human at the wheel to take over just in case, only 35 percent of Millenials would buy that car in the next 5 years. Another 30 percent said they’d take one in 5-10 years. At the far end, 16 percent so said absolutely never.

Now, this assumes such a vehicle will be available in 5 years, which is an entirely separate debate. We have plenty of autonomous tech in our cars right now like lane keep assist and emergency braking, but it’s a big leap from there to being able to zone out behind the wheel while the car does everything.

As you move up to older drivers, the number who’d make the jump in five years drops to 28 percent by the time you get to 45-54 year-olds. After that, the numbers plummet to 15 percent with most drivers over 55 saying they will never go for a self-driving vehicle.

Right now, self-driving cars are novel. They’re something you see out on the streets testing and snap a picture. They’re something auto journalists take out on fancy drive programs to show off the tech of the future today. The technology is there and it does work, mostly.

That’s the problem. There are just enough stories of people who have issues with autonomous tech to make everyone skeptical. Take a car loaded with the latest autonomous features for a drive and it won’t take long for it to warn you about a pending collision that is really nothing more than a road sign on an exit ramp that confused the car. The same is true of lane keep assist, which is notoriously annoying and tends to nudge the steering wheel at the wrong moments.

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That’s disconcerting. The idea of the car being fully in control when there are still issues with the tech we have is a deal breaker for many drivers. Our autonomous future is coming, but it doesn’t look like there are a heck of a lot of consumers who want that future.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin