Our “Gateway Drugs” to Driverless Vehicles

Today, we see non-stop articles about society’s willingness to ride in a driverless vehicle. Companies and academic institutions have conducted countless studies globally that show a range of likelihood and circumstances that would enable people to accept this new technology. During my speeches and panels on driverless vehicles, I often ask audiences if they would be willing to ride in a driverless vehicle and the responses are wide-varying. It is largely dependent on the crowd’s age, their location, and their familiarity with the driverless technology. It’s fascinating to see the crowd ponder that decision: “Would I hop in a driverless vehicle today if it was waiting outside to take me to my next destination?”

Then I think back 10 years and wonder how that same crowd would have reacted to this question: “Would you be willing to hop in a car with a stranger to allow them to take you to your next destination?” I’m pretty sure most people would have thought I was crazy. Uber and Lyft have made getting into a stranger’s car 100% acceptable. Of course, the corresponding technology and perception of accountability does help, but I find it just as surprising that the drivers are willing to let strangers into their personal vehicles!  Uber and Lyft, our “gateway drugs” to driverless vehicles, prove how a new technology that brings both reliability and convenience are likely to outweigh “old school” thinking regarding mobility norms.

Driverless vehicles have the potential to add even more reliability and convenience – in addition to increasing safety. For this reason, I have no doubts that our society will accept and embrace the driverless technology wholeheartedly. Do you agree?

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 Our “Gateway Drugs” to Driverless Vehicles

  1. Ken Pyle says:

    Yes, I agree. If the cost is significantly less for driverless then that will help seal the deal for many people. It will take away the fixed costs of ownership, which is huge.

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  2. krantzmh says:

    I completely agree that society will come to not only eventually accept AVs but broadly prefer them. Current surveys are only marginally helpful because consumers haven’t had a chance to sample the technology. They are operating in a hypothetical realm tainted by misinformation. And because the barriers to sampling the technology will be so low (thanks to transit and TNC offerings) they’ll quickly learn that most fears surrounding the technology are unfounded.

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  3. Ian says:

    Weather is a consideration, but I don’t see it talked about a lot. I am so ready though.
    Here’s an interesting article on the challenges of weather to driverless vehicles.
    https://inside.battelle.org/blog-details/how-well-do-automated-vehicles-perform-when-the-weather-doesn't-cooperate

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