Consumers’ Response to Autonomous Cars

There has been a big push for the creation and implementation of autonomous, driverless cars. However, this push faces a large roadblock: people do not want cars do be driven for them. Recent surveys by J.D. Power show that half to three quarters of responders do not want anything to do with autonomous cars. Kay Stepper, the vice president and head of automated driving unit at Bosch, says that autonomous cars will be ready within the next decade. However, he believes it will take well into the next decade to convince consumers to buy them. Twenty three percent of baby boomers, 41% of Gen Xers, and 55% of Gen Z trust self-driving technology. Many consumers are fearful of a computer leading them into a crash.

In order to expose consumers to these types of cars, car companies have introduced semi-autonomous cars to drivers. These cars consist of automatic brakes, automatic steering back into a lane when the car drifts, and automated brake and accelerator to keep the car a a certain distance from the car in front of it. But the transition from semi-autonomous to fully autonomous is a very significant one. Although humans do not trust these computers, these autonomous cars’ sensors and cameras can see things that humans would not normally be able to see while driving. Engineers state that autonomous cars will undoubtedly make the roads safer. However, if consumers are not willing to accept this fact, then there will be no implementation of these vehicles in the future.



7 comments to Consumers’ Response to Autonomous Cars

  • adamsm19

    I think that one major issue with autonomous cars is writing programs that can make a judgement call for the car like humans can. For instance, when a light is yellow when will the car continue through the intersection and when will it stop? It will be interesting to see how designers are able to grapple with these complicated issues.

  • manleya18

    I agree with Michael. I would like to learn more about the software and technology going into the autonomous car; for example, if autonomous cars rely heavily on video to navigate and make traffic decisions, how do they operate effectively at night. If sensors/signal transmitters have to be established in stop signs and various other traffic signals and signs, what are the costs and benefits of using tax dollars to install those new technologies? What are the positive and negative externalities associated with autonomous cars, and is there concrete evidence that they will actually be consistently safer than human drivers?

  • How can you expect reasonable answers about use of a product that is outside the range of the respondent’s experience? As Austin notes, what “autonomous” means is not entirely clear – at what point does “driver assist” and “active safety” turn into “autonomous”?

    In any case, the technical challenges remain significant.

  • barnettt18

    I find it interesting that consumers are so averse to autonomous cars. In response to Dr. Smitka’s comment, I think that time and experience will allow consumers to open up to the idea of autonomous cars. Right now most people’s experience with autonomous cars come from science fiction and the occasional reminder that Google Maps has been using autonomous vehicles to map its entire platform for years now. People are hesitant to make the shift from driver assist to completely autonomous and self-driving because their cars become out of their control at that point. However, a change in attitude is necessary for progress to be made in the auto industry.

    Thomas Barnett

    • How many people drive cars with one of the modern “assist” features? I suspect not many, particularly if we exclude ESC (electronic stability control), which is invisible to all but a thin slice of a fraction of drivers.

  • Barrett Snyder

    Speaking from someone who treats driving as an “experience” rather than a mode of transportation, I will never have an autonomous car, nor would I like to see mass-market consumer use of the technology. Part of driving for people like me is how driving makes you feel, your connection to the car, to the road beneath you. Specifically related to racing, both street racing and sanctioned racing (of which I have done both), you drive for the thrill of it. V8’s, totally unnecessary horsepower, and flashy styling is part of driving. When you lose man’s ability to provide input to a vehicle and feel the response, you lose the spirit of driving and with it the spirit of independence that brought about the automobile in the first place.

    Separately, on future roadways, I personally don’t feel comfortable with other vehicles that are entirely autonomous driving alongside me. I will never trust a computer to react to every potential situation that might present itself. You can’t effectively quantify every potential situation that might occur while driving, let alone write programming to handle those situations.

    • I think you’d change your mind if a future job leads to an LA commute. You want a car where you can still drive it, but if you have a regular stop-and-go commute you may want to be able to hand that particular tedium over to the car.