Consumers are more wary than excited about self-driving cars

Almost no one is ready to give up the steering wheel, gas and brake pedals

Google, Uber and Tesla may be giddy about the prospect of self-driving cars, but U.S. consumers aren't convinced that the technology is safe or that they need it.

Only 10 percent of people surveyed by the University of Michigan said they would have no concerns at all about riding in fully self-driving cars, while two thirds said they would be moderately or very concerned about it.

The level of confidence goes up a little for cars that would be only partially self-driving. In that case, 16 percent would have no concern and 50 percent would be moderately or very concerned.

The research shows that while coverage of self-driving cars and the technology behind them has increased in the media, consumers are still unsure that the cars are safe.

That's underlined by another finding: Only 6 percent of respondents would be comfortable with self-driving cars that had no steering wheel, gas or brake pedals. The rest want the manual controls to stay.

So, are the concerns rational?

Google's cars alone have driven more than 1.5 million miles in autonomous mode with an almost flawless safety record, and numerous other auto makers are also testing their cars out on public roads without major accidents.

Brandon Schoettle, project manager of the university's sustainable worldwide transportation program and lead author of the study, said it doesn't necessarily make sense for people to be more wary of fully autonomous vehicles than of semi-autonomous ones.

"We feel that there are safety issues involved with handing control of a partially self-driving vehicle back to the human driver, so the greater concern people have for completely self-driving vehicles is somewhat misplaced in our opinion," he said in an email message.

Other experts have also questioned whether drivers can safely regain control of a semi-autonomous car during an emergency, citing the difficulty drivers will have maintaining awareness of road conditions if they are not driving.

Schoettle said he expects attitudes will change as consumers are introduced to the technology and try it out.

"We do expect that experience with such technologies will lead to increased comfort and reduced levels of concern about riding in such vehicles," he said.

As for telling the vehicle their destination, 38 percent said they would like a touchscreen, 34 percent want to issue voice commands, 12 percent would prefer a dash-mounted display and 8 percent want to use a portable device.

The survey was conducted online in April and drew 618 responses from men and women of all age groups from across the U.S. The margin of error is 3.9 percent.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?