I’ve said it numerous times when I’ve been on a long road trip: I wish I had a car with auto-pilot. The notion that I could just sit back, relax, maybe even doze, while the car just took over is a nice little fantasy. But in reality, I don’t think I could give up control that easily. I don’t consider myself that much of a control freak, but I still think I’d be afraid to let a machine take over my life. And it appears I’m not alone.
Although several companies are testing driverless cars (Google and BMW for example), a recent survey from TE Connectivity, Winston-Salem, N.C., found that the majority of consumers are not yet comfortable with the idea of fully autonomous vehicles and that safety is their top priority before adopting the technology. The survey of 1000 adults in the U.S. examined consumer attitudes toward ‘driverless’ cars.
Not surprisingly, the survey indicated that women, older individuals, and those with young children were concerned about safety and less eager to give up control of their vehicles. Complete details from the press release follow:
Nearly 70% of respondents stated they would not be comfortable in an autonomous vehicle (i.e. a car that operates itself without real-time input from the driver). Close to 30% of consumers surveyed said they would be comfortable in a car with driverless technology. More than half (55%) marked safety technology as the most important aspect of the autonomous vehicle that they believe needs to be enhanced before these cars become accepted to the general public. The survey results are timely given the U.S. Department of Transportation’s recently announced guidelines concerning autonomous vehicle testing and safety.
“Significant progress already has been made in developing autonomous and semi-autonomous safety functions,” said Steven Merkt, President, Transportation Solutions for TE Connectivity. “With consumers citing safety as their top concern for getting comfortable with the idea of driverless vehicles, it’s clear that the industry is moving in the right long-term direction and that consumer education on safety features will play an important part in adoption of the technology.”
Respondents overwhelmingly prioritized safety features (55%) over more sophisticated “info-tainment” systems (4%) when asked which aspect of vehicle technology they would like improved before autonomous vehicles become widely available. Consumers noted that innovation in safety features, including lane control, automatic emergency braking and sensors to detect objects or people near the vehicle, were more important than upgraded info-tainment systems.
“Autonomous vehicles will require more robust and innovative connectivity solutions to enhance performance and safety. Ensuring the functionality of the critical electronic connections in navigation, advanced safety systems, and highly integrated engine controls and power management systems will be essential as vehicles become more autonomous,” Merkt added.
In response to the autonomous vehicle feature that consumers were most concerned about, the majority of respondents (76%) said relinquishing full control, higher speed capacity or the ability of the car to navigate and reach destinations without driver input. Sixty percent of consumers noted they were reluctant to give up full control. In contrast, significantly more males (25%) than females (13%) said they were not concerned about any features of the autonomous vehicle.
Improved fuel efficiency was noted by 22% of respondents as the single-biggest benefit of autonomous vehicles. Other benefits such as less traffic congestion (21%), relief of vehicle occupants from driving and navigation responsibilities (13%), enhanced productivity (11%), and higher speed limit (4%) also were selected by respondents. Those participants between the ages of 18-54 noted enhanced productivity (i.e. being able to multi-task without having the responsibility of driving) as a more significant benefit to the autonomous vehicle compared to those 65 or older.
Additionally, more men (34%) than women (24%) stated they would be comfortable in a car with driverless technology. The results also indicated a variation in age with 18-34 year olds (38%) being more comfortable than 55-64 year olds (20%) and those 65 or older (18%). Interestingly, 70% of those with children of driving age (13-17 years old) said they were uncomfortable with autonomous vehicles.