Remember the 1990’s movie Demolition Man? It featured a futuristic Los Angeles complete with self-driving cars. Who would have thought 20 years later we might actually have the option of buying one.
According to the engineers at several large car manufacturers, acquiring a fully automated self-driving car may be a reality in just a few short years.
Truly, the first fully autonomous, self-driving vehicles are expected to hit the show room floor across the country by the end of the decade, but it appears their acceptance by the general public might be lukewarm at best. According to a survey conducted by ORC International, an overwhelming majority of motorists were apprehensive at the thought of turning over the wheel to a computer. It appears that there is an innate distrust among vehicle owners, and overcoming it may prove to be a bigger challenge than creating the vehicles.
According to the survey, only 18 percent of drivers polled said they would actually purchase one of these vehicles. The overwhelming reason for the lackluster interest? The majority said that they just didn’t feel safe riding in a car that is piloted by a computer. Only 22 percent of those motorists thought allowing a loved one to ride in such a vehicle was a good idea.
I know we’ve all heard that computers are more reliable than humans; however, despite the lack of subjective judgment and the removal of the human error factor which should make riding in these cars inherently safer than traditional driving, consumers are fearful of the concept. Maybe this fear stems in part from their experiences with software bugs and computer glitches, but regardless of the reasons, people are reluctant about the computer controlled vehicle concept.
Yearly, over 30,000 people lose their lives in car accidents involving cars piloted by other people; with the overwhelming majority of them being caused by simple human error. A computer controlled vehicle would eliminate such errors. Computers would not take unnecessary risks, such as, shooting the gap between cars to cross the road or speed up to prevent being late to an appointment. Additionally, your self-driving car wouldn’t be distracted by a to do list, your fight with your spouse or significant other, or trying to remember whether you’d dropped off the dry cleaning this week. They won’t answer cell phones, text while driving, or have one too many drinks at the local watering hole. In other words, autonomous cars won’t succumb to typical distractions and temptations while driving, remaining aware and making driving adjustments as necessary.
Nevertheless, surveys seem to confirm what most of us already thought: The majority of people don’t want self-driving cars just yet. These vehicles may catch on with more affluent and tech-savvy drivers, but the majority of mainstream consumers will most likely pass in favor of a less pricey, less risky traditional manual drive vehicle.
The survey did find, however, that the very same consumers who indicated that they would not be interested in purchasing such a vehicle are the ones most interested in cars equipped with computerized features similar to the basics of the driverless system. These consumers seem to want extras like lane departure warning systems that notify the driver when a vehicle has begun to drift over highway markers and even such nudge the car back over into its own lane. They also approve of other extras, such as, a forward collision warning system that automatically applies the brakes in an effort to minimize the impact of the collision and self-parking systems which automatically steer a vehicle into a parking spot without driver input. Maybe these small computerized features provide the evidence needed to show that while the computer-driven vehicles are ahead of their time, they very well may gain acceptance in the near future.
The survey seems to indicate most drivers are in favor of additional safety features in their cars and have warmed to the idea that these advances in technology work in conjunction with traditional driving to keep drivers and passengers safer on the road. The next step in this natural progression will be to convince these same drivers that allowing the car to pilot itself ultimately will turn out to be safer than doing it ourselves. In time, we’ll see if this latest technology catches on or not, but I must say, it certainly would be nice to be able to catch a quick nap in between destinations sometimes.