Yanks not ready for ro­bots

Six in 10 Amer­i­cans don’t think they’ll see roads filled with au­ton­o­mous cars in their life­time

The Witness - Wheels - - TRENDS - — Wheels Re­porter.

WITH new ve­hi­cle tech­nolo­gies be­ing re­ported ev­ery day, au­ton­o­mous (or self­driv­ing) ve­hi­cles are cap­tur­ing the at­ten­tion of the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, con­sumers, deal­ers and de­vel­op­ers alike.

How­ever, new re­search from Kel­ley Blue Book re­veals that Amer­i­cans are most com­fort­able with the ve­hi­cles cur­rently on the road to­day, be­liev­ing that they are sig­nif­i­cantly safer than mod­els with a higher level of au­ton­omy.

This is just one of many in­ter­est­ing find­ings of the re­cent 2016 Kel­ley Blue Book Fu­ture Au­ton­o­mous Ve­hi­cle Driver Study, re­leased on Septem­ber 30 by Kel­ley Blue Book in the U.S.

The ve­hi­cle val­u­a­tors com­mis­sioned the na­tional study to un­der­stand cur­rent con­sumer per­cep­tions and mis­con­cep­tions of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles over­all and by each level of au­ton­omy.

The sur­vey found con­sumers are torn be­tween the need for safety and the de­sire for con­trol, with 51% of re­spon­dents re­ply­ing that they pre­fer to have full con­trol of their ve­hi­cle, even if it’s not as safe for other driv­ers, while 49% pre­fer to have a safer road­way for all, even if that means they have less con­trol over their own ve­hi­cle.

There are six lev­els of ve­hi­cle au­ton­omy iden­ti­fied by the So­ci­ety of Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neers (SAE), from Level 0 (hu­man-only con­trol) to Level 5 (no hu­man driver).

Ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey, aware­ness of the higher lev­els of ve­hi­cle au­ton­omy is lim­ited, with six out of 10 re­spon­dents ad­mit­ting that they know lit­tle or noth­ing about au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles. For half of the sur­vey re­spon­dents, the per­cep­tion of safety and per­sonal com­fort with au­ton­o­mous tech­nol­ogy di­min­ished as the level of au­ton­omy in­creased.

When sur­vey re­spon­dents were asked to make a choice be­tween the dif­fer­ent lev­els, Level 4 au­ton­omy hits the “sweet spot” by pro­vid­ing all the ben­e­fits of full ve­hi­cle au­ton­omy with­out strip­ping away the op­tion of driver con­trol.

This is not sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing 80% of re­spon­dents be­lieve that peo­ple should al­ways have the op­tion to drive them­selves, and 64% pre­fer to be in con­trol of their ve­hi­cles. In fact, most con­sumers (62%) do not think they will live to see a world where all ve­hi­cles are fully au­ton­o­mous.

If ve­hi­cles at all lev­els of au­ton­omy were avail­able by 2020, 59% of con­sumers would be likely to pur­chase a Level 3 or higher au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle that is ca­pa­ble of driv­ing it­self for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the study found that most young Amer­i­cans, the so-called Gen Z be­tween 12 and 15 years old, say they are ready to get on board and be­lieve they will see fully au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles in their life­time.

More im­por­tantly, six in 10 of their par­ents, the 25- to 34-year-old Mil­len­ni­als who have ac­tual pur­chas­ing power to­day, re­port they would feel safe in a ro­bot car.

Nine in 10 of their grand­par­ents, the 51- to 64-year-old Baby Boomers are not, how­ever, keen on let­ting the ro­bot take the steer­ing wheel out of their hands.

The ma­jor­ity of the 2 200 Amer­i­cans sur­veyed, (63%) be­lieve that road­ways would be safer if au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles were stan­dard; how­ever, 37% think that road­ways are safer with ve­hi­cles op­er­ated by peo­ple.

In ad­di­tion, 60% of re­spon­dents would share their ve­hi­cle in­for­ma­tion for more ef­fi­cient road­ways, while 40% pre­fer to keep their trav­els pri­vate.

PHOTO: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

Only two in 10 Amer­i­cans are ready for a fu­ture of ro­bot trans­port like the Olli bus, cur­rently on test in Wash­ing­ton DC and one of sev­eral sim­i­lar buses be­ing tested around the world.

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