Would You Want A Self-Driving Car?

Survey says automation hasn't won us over yet

There are plenty of headaches that go along with driving. Fueling up, staying alert, dealing with traffic, buying insurance, other drivers … the list goes on. But for all the hassle that goes along with driving, American drivers aren’t willing to hand over the wheel to their cars just yet.

In a poll conducted by researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak with the University of Michigan’s Sustainable Worldwide Transportation research group, researchers found that across age, gender, and demographics, American drivers just aren’t that interested in having a self-driving car.

The poll collected answers from 618 licensed drivers in the United States, with pretty even distributions across geography, income level, gender, and age.

When asked whether they preferred to own a future car with no self-driving capabilities, versus one that is partially self-driving or completely self-driving, only 15 percent of respondents wanted a completely self-driving car, and more than 45 percent wanted no self-driving capabilities at all. Younger people (under 44) were slightly more likely to be ok with riding in a self-driving car, but not by much–the age group most in favor of completely self-driving cars was people aged 30-44, and only 22 percent of that group favored full automation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, respondents over 60 years old were least likely to want a self-driving car, at 9.6 percent.

In the paper, the authors write that in addition to people preferring to have at least some control of their car, “The level of concern for riding in completely self-driving vehicles is high, with two thirds of respondents feeling either very or moderately concerned.”

Even more tellingly, a whopping 94.5 percent of the people polled wanted self-driving cars to have a steering wheel, brake, or other controls in the car, allowing a human to take over if they wanted to.

Does this mean that self-driving cars are a non-starter? No. But it does mean that automakers and tech companies are going to have to work hard to convince people to put their lives in the hands of a car, instead of taking them into their own.