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Who's Ready for a Driverless Car Without a Steering Wheel? Many Say No

Overall public opinion has been remarkably consistent over the past two years -- despite increased media coverage, many remain skeptical of self-driving vehicles.

(TNS) -- Technology geeks, auto executives and journalists are more excited about self-driving cars than the general public, based on a second annual survey conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Given the choice among three levels of automation in a future vehicle — no self-driving, partial self-driving and complete self-driving — 46% chose no self-driving, followed by 39% for partial and and 16% opting for complete self-driving.

This was the second year researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak conducted this survey. They received 618 responses from licensed drivers age 18 or older. The survey was conducted using Survey Monkey, an online survey company. A similar, but not identical study done in 2014, found many of the same reservations among consumers.

"Overall public opinion has been remarkably consistent over the two years that this survey has been conducted despite increased media coverage of self-driving vehicles," Schoettle said. “This just lays out one of the hurdles that needs to be overcome for people to accept this technology. People still want to take control, and they're afraid of truly giving up control."

The percentage of respondents who said they would prefer no self-driving technology actually rose slightly to 46% from 44% last year. Slightly fewer people this year said they'd be OK with partial autonomy (38.7%) than last year (40.6%).

While younger drivers tended to be more comfortable with full or partial autonomy, those between ages 30 and 44 were more likely to choose a complete self-driving vehicle (22.2%) than those between 18 and 29 (18.8%). In the same vein, slightly more (41.3%) of the 18- to 29-year-olds said they didn't want to give any control to sensors and cameras and robots than their older 30- to 44-year-old counterparts (35.2%).

In response to the question would you be very concerned, moderately concerned, slightly concerned or not at all concerned about riding in a complete self-driving vehicles the percentage saying they were "very concerned" increased to 37.2% from 35.6% in 2015.

Schoettle said he doesn't expect Uber, Google, Apple or any traditional automakers to slow their efforts to achieve safe, but totally autonomous vehicles, but surveys like this can tell them what features people want or don't want.

"Anything that people feel was pushed on them can create a backlash," he said. "There’s going to be a limit to how fast you can push these vehicles on people because of legal and regulatory restraints.

Self-driving vehicle survey findings

Almost no one wants the steering wheel, gas pedal and brake pedal removed from the vehicle. 94.5% said they could not accept a vehicle that a human can't control manually when needed.

Partial autonomy, which already exists in most late-model luxury vehicles, is more acceptable. Only 17% said they were "concerned" about riding or driving in a partially self-driving vehicle.

If a vehicle is partially self-driving, 38% said they would prefer to give it instructions by touchscreen, while 36% preferred voice commands.

Women were slightly more resistant than men to any autonomous features, as 48.4% of women said they want no self-driving capability compared with 43.1% of men.

©2016 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.