Autonomous Vehicles: To Trust, or Not to Trust?

According to two different surveys, most adults have strong reservations about the emergence of self-driving cars.

by Colin Wood / August 6, 2014

Two new surveys reveal that the public is concerned about the emergence of autonomous vehicles.

Vehicles that drive themselves, like those being developed by Google and major auto makers, are being welcomed by some groups, and the California state Legislature is preparing for their arrival as early as next year.

The public, however, has some reservations.

In a survey conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research institute (UMTRI) earlier this year, 57 percent of 1,533 adults -- in the U.S., Australia and the U.K. -- said they regarded the idea of self-driving cars as positive overall, while just 14 percent reported a negative outlook on the technology.

But the survey also showed that the majority of respondents “expressed high levels of concern about riding in self-driving vehicles,” with a common concern being that the vehicles would not be able to drive as well as humans. Respondents also reported being worried about vehicles driving themselves while unoccupied, and most reported they were unwilling to pay extra for self-driving functionality.

Another survey conducted by found that 22.4 percent of 2,000 survey respondents said they would buy a self-driving car if it were available today, while 24.5 percent said they would never consider buying one. But when respondents were offered an 80 percent discount on their car insurance, those who said they would “never” consider buying a self-driving vehicle dropped to 13.7 percent.

The survey also identified a lack of trust with self-driving vehicles. When asked if they would trust a self-driving car to take their child to school, 76 percent said no, and 61 percent said they don’t think a computer could make decisions as well as a person behind the wheel. -- Colin Wood