The Biggest Barrier to Driverless Vehicle Adoption: Human Acceptance?

Here are just a few stats from some surveys that have been conducted recently:

  • In the United Kingdom, 73% of people would not give up driving in exchange for a driverless car and 38% of people would not likely buy a driverless car even if they were accessible and the same price as regular cars. (source)
  • In a survey of people from 10 countries around the world, 58% say they would take a ride in a fully self-driving car (source)
  • In a survey of Americans, a slight majority of adults under 30 are excited by the future of self-driving cars, compared to 40 percent who are worried. The attitudes of those over 65 are very different: just 19 percent say they’re excited about self-driving cars, while 71 percent are worried (source)

You get the idea…  While the survey questions, timing, and audiences were varied, it’s clear that people have significant concerns with riding in and/or purchasing a driverless vehicle.  This makes sense: driverless vehicles have been a fantasy concept in movies for years (see Disney’s Magic Highway and Total Recall, as examples); I’m not sure anyone expected to see them on our roadways in our lifetime.  I believe the only way to get past this barrier is to actually change people’s perceptions of driverless vehicles….from a concept to a reality.  This means that people need to be able to see and touch them!  Singapore, Pittsburgh, and London have taken great steps forward by doing exactly that and I expect many other cities to follow in the coming months and years. I’ll be curious to see if those cities’ comparable survey responses change more quickly than others.

The private sector is motivated to get these driverless vehicles out quickly, but what can the government do to help advance human’s acceptance?  Pilot programs (Bishop Ranch) and test sites (GoMentum Station and MCity) are just a couple of examples.  Do you have any other ideas?

About Lauren Isaac

Lauren Isaac is the Director of Business Initiatives for the North American operation of EasyMile. Easymile provides electric, driverless shuttles that are designed to cover short distances in multi-use environments. Prior to working at EasyMile, Lauren worked at WSP where she was involved in various projects involving advanced technologies that can improve mobility in cities. Lauren wrote a guide titled “Driving Towards Driverless: A Guide for Government Agencies” regarding how local and regional governments should respond to autonomous vehicles in the short, medium, and long term. In addition, Lauren maintains the blog, “Driving Towards Driverless”, and has presented on this topic at more than 75 industry conferences. She recently did a TEDx Talk, and has been published in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune among other publications.
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3 Responses to The Biggest Barrier to Driverless Vehicle Adoption: Human Acceptance?

  1. Sally says:

    Hi Lauren. I find your analysis and observations really helpful,
    so keep them coming! One way to make AVs more visible is if they could be seen to operate as a fleet. I am primarily interested in how AVs can be harnessed in light of social care (for example hospitals, elderly care etc) but am not sure how this would come about at a local level. But if they were to be seen to be operating en masse sucessfully driving about, this might attract a more favourable opinion of wanting to use the technology in a personal capacity. Best Sally


    • Lauren Isaac says:

      I totally agree! It may be that the private sector (like a hospital) might consider investing in this first. The transportation of elderly folks is a great use case for driverless vehicles.


  2. Good points Lauren. And that’s why autonomous vehicles must be much safer than regular vehicles. Every crash will be blown out of proportion. But once people see them operating safely, their attitudes will change.


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