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The Jury Is Still Out on the General Appeal of Self-Driving Cars

The Jury Is Still Out on the General Appeal of Self-Driving Cars

Amazing strides have been made in autonomous vehicle manufacturing since last year. Several states have allowed for trial runs on open roadways, which strongly suggests that the dawn of driver-less vehicles everywhere could be getting very close.

However, many people are still trying to decide whether that’s an exciting prospect or not, as indicated by a recent study on global perceptions of autonomous vehicles. In the wake of two fatal accidents  involving self-driving vehicles this year, the divided results of the study shouldn’t be surprising.

Ipsos Major Global Study

According to the study conducted by Ipsos, an average of 13 percent of respondents said they would never use a self-driving car. The other 87 percent split almost evenly, though respondents in crowded foreign nations tended to be the most excited about the new technology.

For example, 49 percent of Indian respondents said they were in favor of self-driving vehicles, versus 46 percent who were primarily undecided but liked the idea. Only 5 percent said they would never use such a vehicle. The numbers were comparable in China.

About 33 percent of both Brazilians and Russians said they were enthused about being chauffeured about in an autonomous vehicle, and 60 percent were still unsure but interested. Responses were similar in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, and Spain.

Survey respondents in the U.S. were more skeptical of self-driving vehicles: 22 percent expressed excitement about autonomous car rides; 54 percent said they were undecided, and 31 percent were certain they would never use them. This was the largest number of deniers on the chart.

Canada and the United Kingdom were also fairly uninterested, with 18 and 19 percent amenable to the idea, respectively; 58 and 57 percent interested but unsure; and 24 percent saying they would never ride in one.

Combatting the Love of Driving Cars

The study suggested that Americans are unwilling to give up the freedom of driving their own vehicle in exchange for an autonomous ride. “We see it time and time again,” says Jim Glover, owner of Jim Glover Dodge, a large dealership in Oklahoma.

“People spend hours examining their favorite vehicles, taking them for test drives, and finally making the purchase. Taking that away from some people would be like taking a sandwich from a starving man.”

This will likely be one of the big challenges that face a societal switch to self-driving vehicles. People like their cars and trucks, and they like feeling like they’re in control, even though human operated vehicles are probably more prey to human error than a machine would be.

Changing Perceptions Takes Time

Self-driving vehicles have come a long way in a fairly short span of time, but the development of these vehicles remains in its preliminary stages. The amount of skepticism, and therefore resistance, in the U.S. could decrease as time passes.

Studying the lives saved by autonomous vehicles is one way to change current perceptions with regard to their use. “No form of transportation, public or private, exists that does not have some breakage (passenger deaths),” argues Robert Boudrie in a letter to the editor on MetroWest Daily News.

“The question is not ‘will self-driving cars occasionally kill people?’ (they will), but ‘how does the safety per passenger mile compare to human driven cars?’… Rather than obsess about the loss of a single life in an incident so rare that it made national news, we should compare the incident rate per passenger mile of self-driving vs. conventional cars before rushing into public policy decisions.”

Some studies have indicated that if self-driving vehicles go mainstream, the rate of fatal car accidents could drop by 90 percent.  Most people invested in the self-driving vehicle market are pretty optimistic that the public perception of self-driving cars will change for the better in time.

“With time and technological advancements, more Americans will eventually warm up to self-driving cars, and manufacturers, insurers, and lawmakers will adjust as well,” Tim Spell, an automotive tech analysis at InsuranceQuotes.com told Clarion Ledger.

“Over the years, we’ve seen many automotive innovations — from the seatbelt to the windshield wiper to the GPS — and, with self-driving vehicles, we’re on the cusp of a technology that’s about to make, by far, the greatest impact of them all.”

About Jenna Cyprus

Jenna is a freelance writer who loves the outdoors; especially camping while relaxing with her family.

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