Do American Consumers Really Want Driverless Cars?

“No one wants driverless cars but people who make driverless cars,” according to a poll University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation, reported grist.org, which found that only 15.5 percent of respondents would be interested in an autonomous vehicle. In another poll conducted in 2016, 51 percent of respondents said they would not ride in a driverless car, 63 percent said they are unlikely to buy one in the next decade, and 43 percent said that driverless cars aren’t safe.
Despite lack of consumer interest, automobile, telecom and tech industries have been working intensively to make driverless technology a reality. At a Senate committee hearing last year, tech leaders were asked how the government can help bring on the new age of driverless technology. In December, Google’s parent company Alphabet announced that its self-driving technology was ready for commercialization.  But most people aren’t asking for driverless cars.

According to the New York Times, “In the glorious future, we are assured that driverless cars will save lives, reduce accidents, ease congestion, curb energy consumption and lower harmful emissions. These purported benefits contain elements of truth. But the data is nowhere near complete. … Legitimate areas of question and concern remain. … The types of accidents we’ll face in this automated future, in which these cars are meant to run together in proximity at high speed, may be fewer, but they’ll be new, different, unpredictable and, on occasion, larger and more grisly than the ones we know today.”
Another looming, unpredictable factor in driverless car technology is the fact that human psychology plays a large role in our driving habits and decisions. “People have developed really complex and often unspoken rules of how to interact with one another on the road,” said NPR reporter Shankar Vedantam. “You can teach a self-driving car all the rules and give it the tools to navigate around obstacles, but can these cars deal with all the psychological games that human drivers and pedestrians play on the roads?  … A good part of driving today involves the unspoken assumption that other drivers may not always behave rationally,” making the split-second, intuitive decisions that are a routine part of human driving.
We also know almost instinctively when to stay on the sidewalk. But what if pedestrians are so confident that a self-driving car will stop before hitting them that they carelessly step into the street? Less caution means less safety.
Craig Follis has extensive experience in litigation, negotiating and settling suits, and providing legal opinions on liability and insurance coverage. You can reach him at (888) 703-0109 or via email at cfollis@lawyersva.com.

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