Friday, September 30, 2016

Consumers Aren't as Enthusiastic About Self-Driving Cars as the Industry Would Hope

To the automobile industry, self-driving cars are the next big thing. On its own, the principle seems amazing. A consumer can sit down in a car, input a destination, and just relax until the journey is complete. There's no more need to stress out at the amount of traffic or worry about getting into an accident. Many of the self-driving cars even make it possible for the passengers to take a nap on long trips. While car producers and ride-sharing services believe that self-driving cars will be the most popular thing since sliced bread, according to Tracey Lien's L.A. Times article, consumers aren't as excited about the new technology.

 A recent study performed by Kelly Blue Book involved questions posed to a group of interviewees representative of the general American population, based on this year's census figures. The numbers gathered by the survey were surprising to the self-driving car industry, to say the least. Approximately 80% of participants in the survey don't want to give complete control to the car. They want to always have the ability to turn off the self-driving feature and drive manually. One of the biggest attractions of a self-driving car is that the passengers no longer have to go through the stress and tediousness that driving entails. However, the survey found that 62% of participants not only are willing to drive but actually enjoy the action of driving.

When asked about fully self-driving vehicles, which companies like Google and Uber have been working on developing, one-third of people said they would be completely unwilling to buy such a car. The lack of steering wheel and gas/brake pedals is unsettling for many drivers. Additionally, 62% of people responded that they would not want to live in a world where every vehicle was autonomous. Of the people surveyed, the youngest group (12- to 15-year-olds) were the most interested in a world full of autonomous cars, but even among them, 33% still were still doubtful.

Part of the reason that the people surveyed were against the concept of self-driving cars was that they don't know enough about the concept. Many worry about the science-fiction behind self-driving cars. So many movies have been made depicting smart vehicles as the first step along the path to global domination of machines over man. Even with all of the articles and advertisement about the benefits and drawbacks of self-driving vehicles, 25% knew nothing, 35% knew little, and 28% knew some about the topic. If automobile producers want to raise interest, they should focus on educating people about the facts of self-driving cars.

The most encouraging fact discovered by the survey is that the most participants showed interest in "Level 4" classification of self-driving cars. Under Kelly Blue Book's system, "Level 4" is a type of vehicle that has the ability to drive on its own, but can easily be taken over by a driver if they need to. Whenever the concept of a completely computer-controlled car was mentioned, however, participants reacted negatively. People tend to be nervous about new concepts, especially when it comes to new types of technology. A self-driving car is seen by the more hesitant consumers as a potentially dangerous new technology that may provide more risk than benefit. To address that significant portion of the market, the producers of the self-driving vehicles may need to focus on giving them more first-hand experience. Simply offering test drives could be enough to push wary buyers more onto the pro-autonomy end of the spectrum.

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