Many drivers are ready for autonomous cars, survey says

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A significant percentage of drivers are ready for their cars to do the driving for them.

In a study conducted in June by Insurance.com, 32 percent of the 2,000 licensed drivers surveyed said they would not continue to drive themselves once a self-driving car became available.

This was the first time the study was conducted, so results are not comparable to a previous study.

Of those surveyed, 22 percent said they would be “very likely” to buy a car with autonomous capabilities, and 53 percent would consider buying such a car, but 25 percent said they would never consider a self-driving car.

Driverless cars could make automobile travel safer, according to a study by Eno Center for Transportation that predicts autonomous cars could prevent up to 211,000 crashes a year.

Safer cars and fewer crashes could mean less expensive insurance. The interest in autonomous vehicles peaked when the possibility of cheaper insurance was presented, with 38 percent of respondents saying they would “very likely” buy a self-driving car if insurance were 80 percent cheaper.

While consumers are interested in autonomous car technology, respondents were unsure about claims that driverless cars could be safer than traditional cars. Sixty-one percent said they believe a computer is not capable of the same decision-making that a human is in split-second incidents on the road.

Those surveyed were even less trusting when factoring in their children, with 76 percent saying they would not trust a self-driving car to take their children to school.

Despite those doubts, consumers believe driverless cars are the future, with 73 percent saying drivers in 2040 would not operate cars in a way that is familiar to drivers today.

“People are aware that they already drive cars controlled partly by computers,” Insurance.com Managing Editor Des Toups said in a statement today. “Now they see features like collision avoidance on new models and hear about Google cars hitting the roads in a couple of years. An autonomous car is not science fiction anymore.”

Google is already working toward putting a driverless car on the market that would change the landscape of the auto industry. Lacking a gas pedal and adorned with sensors, Google’s latest prototype looks nothing like the cars on the road today. But Google is changing more than looks. The company envisions a network of self-guided cars at the ready in urban areas; they could be summoned by a smartphone app to take drivers wherever they need to go.

“We still don’t know how autonomous cars will communicate, who’ll be liable for failure or how they’ll mix with old-fashioned cars,” Toups said in the statement. “But we’re already well down this road.”

You can reach Nora Naughton at nnaughton@crain.com.


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