Americans and their cars are a tight-knit relationship that goes back to the Model T and in some cases, it is a love story. Some of us love the feel of the road and the symbiotic relationship between human beings and machines. What about when the autonomous machine takes over and we are reduced to nothing more than freight? That is what SAE International wanted to know in a poll conducted over 18 months.
SAE had a series of demo days in Los Angeles, Tampa, Detroit, and Babcock Ranch, Florida, where 1,400 respondents took pre- and post-ride questionnaires answering a variety of questions about brand, mobility, and consumer preference. Two-thousand self-driving vehicle rides were given over the course of the study. Participants experienced Level 3 and Level 4 driving features such as the vehicle starting, stopping, accelerating, and decelerating on its own. The vehicle systems were from AutonomouStuff, Perrone Robotics or Dataspeed Inc. on closed courses with a driver in place for safety intervention only.
The results were made public on November 5 via a statement; a brief overview of the release read, “The sentiment of those who rode in AVs during the SAE Demo Days largely contradicts the findings from recent surveys that indicate continuing latent distrust and even expanding lack of confidence in automated-driving technology.” Basically, the findings were that 73% of respondents want to be able to share control of the vehicle. Further, 92% say it is paramount that there be an emergency switch to disengage the system and be able to take control.
Overall, respondents think that a self-driving car is going to reduce accidents and save lives and 76% believe that the experience was similar to or even superior to human-driven experiences they have had. Americans, however, are going to have a hard time letting go of that steering wheel and turning their trust to artificial intelligence. Automakers are pouring millions into the technology and as one generation dwindles, the next generation will likely embrace the emerging technology — just like when we left the horse on the farm or started to trust cruise control. The question is, how soon will it happen?
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