Hit & Run

Who's Afraid of Self-Driving Cars? 75 Percent of Americans, Says Poll

Are you among the timorous or will you embrace the hands-free future?

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A recent projection by Business Insider predicts that as many 10 million self-driving vehicles will be on the highways by 2020. I personally think that that estimate is too low. However, a recent poll by the American Automobile Association finds that most Americans are leery of autonomous vehicles. The AAA polled 1,800 Americans about their attitudes toward self-driving cars and found that 75 percent are not yet ready to trust the driving to robots. On the other hand, most drivers did say that they would like their next cars to be equipped with semi-autonomous features such as lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and self-parking technology. Interestingly, more women (81 percent) than men (67 percent) were afraid of allowing an autonomous vehicle to drive itself with them in it. Baby boomers (82 percent) were more afraid of self-driving vehicles than younger generations (69 percent).

The results of this poll were released during the same week that Google reported that one of its self-driving vehicles was partially at fault in a run-in with a public transit bus. This was the first accident in six years in which one of the company's robot cars was at fault. The car's computer evidently believed that the bus would yield the right-of-way as it negotiated its way around some sandbags in the roadway. The Google car was going all of 2 mph and the bus at 15 mph; no one was hurt in the accident. The company says that it will treat the accident as a learning experience and train future cars to realize that bus drivers can be jerks. Actually what the company said was: "From now on, our cars will more deeply understand that buses (and other large vehicles) are less likely to yield to us."

I predict that the acceptance of self-driving vehicles by the public will be one of the fastest technology uptakes in history. At first, they will be used as long-haul highway freight trucks and Uberesque taxi services in cities and expand rapidly from there.  As for me, I can't wait to be chauffeured around by self-driving vehicles while watching a video and sipping Caol Ila.

Question: Are you among the timorous or will you enthusiastically embrace the hands-free future of driving?