A survey conducted earlier this year revealed that only 19% of U.S. adults have solid trust in the safety of self-driving cars. The results suggest that companies developing autonomous driving technology have some way to go to convince people of its safety and benefits for road users.
But what about young Americans? While their attitude toward the emerging technology isn’t so clear, Waymo — the company born out of Google’s self-driving unit and one of the leaders in the field — is taking a growing interest in helping them to better understand what it’s all about.
Recent efforts by Waymo include showing students around one of its closed-course facilities, giving them the chance to watch autonomous cars in action while learning more about how they function. They also got to ride in the vehicles to find out exactly what it’s like to travel in a moving car powered only by sensors and software.
Waymo says that while such events can help teach younger members of society the benefits of autonomous vehicles, its own engineering team should also be to gain a new perspective on driverless systems from young people growing up with the fast-evolving technology.
Silicon Valley-based Waymo is also hoping to inspire some students into becoming engineers to continue the development of self-driving technology in the coming years.
The student-focused effort is part of Waymo’s Let’s Talk Self-Driving campaign, a partnership with the American Automobile Association and the National Safety Council, among others, that aims to “educate people about how self-driving technology can save lives and make our roads more inclusive by improving independence and creating new mobility options for everyone,” the company said in a blog post this week.
At Waymo’s recent event, a San Francisco student named Nathan was enthused about what he saw. “It’s cool that they can sense things and stop on their own without you having to press the brake, especially if somebody is running across the street, or there’s a bike and it will stop automatically, you won’t have to do anything,” adding that self-driving cars “would definitely be a lot safer since the people who are distracted aren’t in control.”
His teacher, Deborah Carlino, also praised the technology, and also highlighted the importance for companies like Waymo to listen to young people’s opinions on the subject so that they come to understand “that they have a voice, and that’s very exciting.”
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