FutureStructure

Poll Finds San Francisco Bay Area Residents Support Smart Traffic Lights, Electric Cars and Drones

They've grown a little colder on self-driving vehicles.

by Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle / June 7, 2018
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(TNS) — Sick of traffic snarls, San Francisco Bay Area voters are eager for new technology — from smart traffic lights to drones — to come to the rescue, according to the 2018 Bay Area Council Poll.

The top technology for surveyed users: responsive traffic lights, which adapt to actual traffic conditions. A “significant” 69 percent of voters said they support these lights, even if funds have to come from other transportation upgrades. The lights have been tested in Bay Area cities including San Jose, Palo Alto, Santa Rosa and Hayward.

Commuters also increasingly rely on ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, with almost three-quarters (74 percent) saying they are important to the region’s transport, and 56 percent saying the services ease getting around.

Although the Bay Area is a hotbed of self-driving car development, voters are skeptical. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) said they don’t think that autonomous cars can fix the region’s traffic problems.

Almost half (45 percent) think the cars will take 11 to 50 years or more to become widespread, with 8 percent saying the cars will never take over. However, a third (31 percent) said they think robot cars will account for most of the vehicles on the road within 10 years. On average, respondents predict it will be slightly more than 16 years before the majority of cars in the Bay Area are self driving.

While 46 percent said they’d be willing to ride in a robot vehicle, 39 percent said they would not. A year ago, 52 percent of those surveyed said they would be willing to hop in a self-driving car. The decrease may be due to widespread publicity over the recent pedestrian fatality caused by an Uber self-driving car in Arizona, as well as crashes of Teslas using Autopilot, although that mode is not truly autonomous.

A separate survey released in May by AAA also found that people’s trust in self-driving cars had eroded. It showed that 73 percent of U.S. drivers were afraid to ride in fully autonomous cars, up significantly from 63 percent in late 2017.

Electric vehicles were met with more enthusiasm by the Bay Area Council respondents. More than half (55 percent) were willing to spend more to drive all-electric cars, although 40 percent said they wouldn’t use one because of range anxiety. Still, 52 percent said they would support banning all gasoline-powered cars in California by 2040.

Flying drones also found fans, with 53 percent supporting their use to deliver small packages locally “if it means faster delivery, lower cost and lower carbon emissions.”

The online survey of 1,000 registered voters in the nine-county Bay Area region was conducted from March 20 through April 3. It also looked at economic growth, housing, drought, education and workforce, with results on those issues being released on different days.

“We need to put the pedal to the metal in developing and deploying new advanced transportation technologies that can improve our region’s mobility,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, in a statement. “It may be a number of years before some of these new technologies are fully proven, but that should not delay us in continuing to invest, experiment and learn how they can help solve one of our most intractable problems.”

©2018 the San Francisco Chronicle Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.