More than 65 per cent of Americans are wary of self-driving cars, according to a new Ipsos and Reuters opinion poll.
A total of 2592 people were surveyed between January 11 and 18, 2018, with respondents born between 1946 and 2004.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Millennials (born between 1982 and 2004) were most receptive to the idea of autonomy, with 38 per cent of respondents indicating they were "comfortable" with the idea of a self-driving taxi.
Generation X (1965-1981) was far less positive, with 27 per cent of those surveyed identifying as "comfortable", while just 16 per cent of Baby Boomers (1946-1964) liked the idea. Across all generations, men (38 per cent) were far more receptive to the idea of autonomous vehicles than women (16 per cent in favour).
This isn't the first major study into self-driving cars to highlight public scepticism surrounding the technology. The 2018 Ford Trend Report revealed only 52 per cent of Australians are "hopeful" about the idea of autonomous cars, compared to 83 per cent in China and 81 per cent in India.
A study from the University of Sydney Business School revealed just 25 per cent of people would buy an autonomous vehicle for personal use, too.
None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who's read the comments on CarAdvice stories about autonomy, but skeptics are fighting the tide.
The past twelve months have seen the first Level 3 production vehicle from Audi, accelerated public testing, production-prepared shuttles and, in the most tangible change of all, more semi-autonomous systems creeping into production cars. Self-driving is coming, kids, get ready.
"I think we agree within five minutes that the automotive industry is now in the biggest transformation process ever. The speed of digitisation, how our vision impacts our business models, the speed of digitisation, how that one impacts innovation in terms of piloted driving, piloted parking,” Rupert Stadler, Audi CEO, said earlier this year, demonstrating how seriously the company is taking autonomy.
So why aren’t the people of Australia jumping on board? Ford’s report might provide some of the answers. In Australia, 53 per cent of people surveyed say artificial intelligence will do more harm than good, while 37 per cent of adults worldwide say technology already does too much of our thinking.
The other prominent argument among motoring enthusiasts, and the one we hear most on CarAdvice, is that people like driving, and no computer is getting its hands (chips?) on my car.
Richard Fairchild, director of autonomous mobility programs at Aurrigo, argues self-driving cars will do good things for petrol heads.
“I’ll tell you my personal point of view. I drive a 500-mile round trip every single week – it’s 200 miles there and 200 miles back, and then 100 miles of driving in between – without fail, every week,” Fairchild told CarAdvice at the International Driverless Vehicle Summit in Adelaide.
“And if I could have an autonomous vehicle take me from my house to my workplace in that 200 miles – that’s nearly a four-hour journey in bad traffic – then that would be fantastic. Currently, I own a big, diesel car because it’s efficient and it’s comfortable.”
“Driving on a motorway – it doesn’t matter if you’re in Australia, if you’re in New York or wherever, or if you’re driving in the roads of the UK – it is dull.”
If a self-driving car could deal with the boring stuff, and you didn’t have to think practically when buying a car, how would the conversation change?
“My big thing is ‘you take me to work so I don’t have to drive, and I’m going to sell my car and buy a Porsche, or a Ferrari… well, maybe a Porsche,” Fairchild said, smiling. “Probably a 15-year-old one at that.”
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