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Americans Love Self-Driving Cars but Are Unwilling to Relinquish Control: Survey

The world is gearing for the day when fully driverless cars will take to the streets safely. Automakers are heavily testing for that day and, as a new survey reveals, people are burning with anticipation for it. They just don’t want to relinquish control over their car yet.
SAE survey reveals Americans love the idea of driverless cars, as long as they can still drive them 6 photos
Retroreflective 2D barcode cycling jacket by Philip Siwek meant to keep cyclists safe from AVsRetroreflective 2D barcode cycling jacket by Philip Siwek meant to keep cyclists safe from AVsRetroreflective 2D barcode cycling jacket by Philip Siwek meant to keep cyclists safe from AVsRetroreflective 2D barcode cycling jacket by Philip Siwek meant to keep cyclists safe from AVsRetroreflective 2D barcode cycling jacket by Philip Siwek meant to keep cyclists safe from AVs
It’s a strange paradox: Americans believe that autonomous cars will be safer, cause fewer crashes and drive themselves better than any human operator could. They’re not showing any of the lack of confidence or reluctance against the technology mentioned in previous studies. At the same time, though, the same Americans don’t want to hand over the control to a computer and would like something like a switch that would ensure they get some of it back. Just in case.

The contradiction was revealed by a new survey conducted by the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE International), before and after testing of their self-driving cars in the ride-along program in Los Angeles, Tampa, Detroit, and Babcock Ranch, Florida. Over 1,400 respondents took part in the survey over 18 months, answering questionnaires before and after a 10-minute ride in a driverless car in a controlled environment.

The participants experienced level 3 and level 4 autonomy, meaning they got to see (some of them for the first time) how a car could start, stop, accelerate and decelerate all on its own. The majority of them were more enthusiastic about the possibility of fully driverless cars after the ride than they were before it. The conclusion was that there was no “latent distrust and even expanding lack of confidence” in self-driving technology, as some studies had indicated, SAE says.

Speaking strictly numbers, 88% of participants said they had no reason to change their optimistic perspective of AVs after the ride; 76% said that the self-driving ride was comparable or superior to rides they had taken with a human operator; 37% believed the advent of AVs would lead to a decrease or the complete elimination of deaths from vehicular crashes; and a smaller number of 12% believed AVs would decrease commute times.

An overwhelming 92% also said they would want a switch to allow them to take control back from the computer, because they were not ok with the idea of relinquishing it for good. In other words, they loved the idea of a driverless car, as long as they still had the possibility of driving it.

On the bright side, SAE notes, it’s good that people are finally coming to embrace the concept of automated driving technology.

“Public acceptance is vital to the future of self-driving cars. Through SAE Demo Days, we are engaging the public directly and inviting them to take a ride,” Mark Chung, SAE International chief marketing officer, says of the findings of the survey. “The SAE Demo Days experience spurred enthusiasm among nearly all of the riders and the experience overall is viewed by participants as comparable to or better than a human-driven experience.”

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