Poll: Two-Thirds Of Americans Are Scared Of Self-Driving Cars

Technology

While companies are spending billions developing them.

Right now Level 3 self-driving technology is available. Level 4 will arrive soon, and within a decade Level 5 will be ready. What is Level 5? Complete autonomous driving with no driver input necessary. And that, as a new poll taken by Reuters shows, is what scares most Americans. This opinion poll, which collected responses from 2,592 adults, needs to be taken seriously by technology companies and automakers who are currently spending billions of dollars developing self-driving tech.

Twenty-seven percent of poll respondents, however, said they would feel just fine riding in a self-driving car, but obviously they are in the minority here. The idea of robots controlling whether you live or die doesn’t sit too comfortably with a lot of people. What’s interesting about the Reuters/Ipsos poll is the wide disparity of opinion based on age and gender. For example, men generally felt more comfortable than women about riding in self-driving cars. Millennials also responded to being more comfortable than their parents, the baby boomers, about the future of automotive transportation. Delving into the data even further, some 38 percent of men said they’d ride in a self-driving car. 55 percent would not.

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For women, just 16 percent said they were fine with self-driving while a whopping 77 percent were not. One woman told pollsters she did not “want to be the first guinea pig.” Another woman had a more positive outlook, saying self-driving cars “are a great innovation and technology with a lot of potential.” However, this same woman was also concerned “how liability will fall in the case of accidents, where there are both self-driving and regular cars on the road.” An industry analyst told Reuters a lot of people’s concern on this subject stems from the fact they’d never had the chance to ride in an autonomous vehicle.

“We’re talking about abstract things that many people have not experienced firsthand,” said Jeremy Carlson, principal automotive analyst with IHS Markit. This was not the only survey taken recently that exposed doubts about full autonomous driving. This mentality likely won’t change until automakers start allowing sample drives to reassure people.

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