Survey Uncovers Who Wants Self-Driving Cars—and It’s Not Who You May Think

By: Bridget Clerkin July 27, 2017
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When it comes to the world of driving, those with the most excitement for the future have the most experience in the past.

Men over 50 years old were the most willing to own or ride in a driverless car, according to a new survey conducted in Canada. And while older women weren’t as gung-ho about the new technology as their male counterparts, in general, those who had 35 years or more of driving experience were the most in favor of the automated technology, the survey showed.

The results were among the most surprising findings from the survey of 485 participants, which focused on people’s attitudes and opinions on self-driving vehicles. 

The numbers paint a much different picture of who’s interested in the new-age vehicles than the one that’s typically constructed. Millennials who responded to the Canadian questionnaire seemed much less interested in driverless options than their more experienced fellow drivers—despite their generation’s dwindling desire to obtain a driver’s license and widespread embrace of ride-hailing apps.

But all that time spent away from the driver’s seat may explain their indifference. Respondents who spent between 10 to 20 hours driving per week were about three times more likely to want an autonomous auto than those who drove less than 10 hours per week, according to the study.

“Maybe they’re tired of driving that many hours or spending congestion in rush hour,” posited the survey’s architect, Mahsa Ghaffari. “Drivers who drive more in the week are particularly comfortable with using self-driving cars, perhaps because it could free up time every day on their commute to do something else instead of focusing on driving.”

Still, not every participant who felt more comfortable in a car was rooting on the driverless prototypes. Those who self-reported as “more aggressive” or “confident” drivers were far less willing to cede control of the vehicle to a computer, Ghaffari said.

Overall, however, the participants seemed okay with farming out certain responsibilities to the cars. Eighty-one percent of respondents said they would let the vehicles use GPS to map out routes, while 43% said they would trust a car to stay within its lane and 40% would let the vehicle control its own speed.

But many of the survey-takers remained wary of other autonomous functions, with just 15% reporting confidence in a self-driving car’s ability to control braking and accelerating and 36% saying they would feel safe in a driverless vehicle without looking at the road.

Self-driving technology may have come a long way, but when it comes to earning the public’s trust, it seems the cars have a long road ahead.

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