Autonomous cars not quite ready for wide acceptance, study says

Autonomous vehicles are becoming more of a reality as technology improves, but people are far from settled in accepting a future with driverless cars. A University of Kansas researcher has co-written a study that assesses sentiment about such technology and what factors might prevent people from wanting to use autonomous vehicles.

Consumers in Ann Arbor, Michigan were asked if they would replace the trip they just took driving with one in an autonomous vehicle.

“Roughly one-third said that they would absolutely replace their trip,” said Bradley Lane, associate professor of public affairs & administration at KU and a co-author of the study. “Please, take my keys, take my car, I don’t want to bother ever having to drive again. Another third of people said, under no circumstances would I replace the trip I just made with an autonomous vehicle. I don’t trust them. I’m not comfortable with them. I don’t know enough about them. The other third of people basically said I don’t really know.”

It’s important to note that residents in Ann Arbor would be likely to know more about autonomous vehicles than the public in other parts of the country.

“Ann Arbor, Michigan is home to the EPA testing site that the United States does for emissions regulation,” said Lane. “It’s home to also some of the major research centers and testing centers for autonomous vehicles, basically anything in transportation. That’s partly because of its proximity to Detroit.”

It’s important to understand that this will happen in stages.

“There’s a perception among the general population that autonomous vehicles will sort of work and disseminate into the mainstream like a switch, like, one day, you just won’t have to bother driving your car, it will drive you somewhere,” said Lane. “I think the reality is that the entry of automation into transportation is going to be a lot more piecemeal.”

Lane believes fleet and freight solutions will likely come before personal vehicles are replaced on a large scale.