Forget about flying cars, the next big thing in automotive design is autonomous technology. There's been a considerable amount of innovation and advances in self-driving vehicle technology over the past several years, but while that may have companies such as Google and Tesla super excited, new research from Kelley Blue Book (KBB) suggests that Americans aren't yet comfortable giving up control of their cars to a computer and a bunch of sensors.
KBB commissioned the national study to better understand how consumers view autonomous vehicles. Market research firm Vital Findings conducted the survey, which included 2,200 residents of the United States with a wide age range from 12-64 years old. The survey was weighted to Census figures by age, gender, and ethnicity, and by a variety of residential and ownership patterns.
The respondents were split on whether they'd prefer to have full control of a vehicle even if it means the roadways aren't as safe for other drivers (51 percent), versus the opposite viewpoint of preferring to have safer roadways even if it means giving up some level of control over their vehicles (49 percent).
"The industry is talking a lot about self-driving vehicles these days, with multiple automakers and ride share companies throwing their hats in the competition to build and release the first fully autonomous vehicle to consumers," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Much is still unknown about fully autonomous vehicles, including how they would react in emergency situations, but the lower-level options are gaining steam, with many Americans interested in purchasing vehicles with Level 2 semi-autonomous features."
KBB's reference to a Level 2 autonomous vehicle is based on the six levels of vehicle autonomy identified by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). A Level 0 vehicle is completely under the control of a human driver, whereas a Level 5 is completely autonomous (a third of respondents said they'd never purchase a Level 5 vehicle). Level 2 is semi-autonomous, meaning the vehicle can drive itself but the driver must be ready to take control, as is the case with Tesla's Autopilot technology.
Perhaps what's most surprising about the study is the level of awareness regarding autonomous vehicles, or lack thereof. It's a hot topic in the field of technology, as we often cover developments in the field here at HotHardware, but 6 out of 10 respondents said they know little or nothing about the category. That's a problem for automakers and vested companies such as Google alike. There needs to be consumer education on the benefits of self-driving cars if Americans are going to adopt the technology at large.
What's not surprising is that the majority of respondents in what KBB calls the tech-savvy pre-driving Gen Z age range (12-15 years old) are ready to ride with self-driving cars, with over a two-thirds believing they will within their lifetime.
If you want to know about how Americans feel towards self-driving cars, ready your PDF reader and check out KBB's nearly 50-page report filled with stats.