Posted by on May 15, 2018

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Egads! There’s no driver in there!

Many are claiming self-driving cars are the future. But if two-thirds have a vote on the matter, self-driving cars are not going to be reality.

The majority has been wrong before.

Last week I wrote about how split Americans are on supporting a limited UBI program and how fewer still were willing to pay for it. The survey on self-driving cars may reveal how skeptical Americans are about something that to them conjures fear of safety and reliability more so than their feasibility. After all self-driving technology has been proven. But that doesn’t seem to make Americans feel better about sharing the road with the technology.

While some say we’ll see 10 million self-driving cars on the road by 2020, today, 62 percent of Americans say they are unwilling to share the road with self-driving vehicles. More than half (54 percent) said they wouldn’t even use such vehicles.

As with any set of statistical measures, though, there are bright spots:

The likelihood of a college graduate saying they are likely to use a self-driving car is twice as high as those without a college degree, 38% vs. 19%, respectively. Additionally, the youngest American adults, those aged 18 to 35, are the most likely age group to say they would use self-driving cars, with 36% saying they are likely to do so. Likelihood to use the technology declines to 29% among those aged 36 to 50, 19% among those 51 to 65 and 12% for those 66 years of age or older.

So maybe our friend, the Grim Reaper may help advance self-driving car technology. When the old fogies (like myself) die off, there may end up being a majority favorable to self-driving car tech.

Much of the public’s resistance with the technology is largely based on unfamiliarity and fear. I bet as soon as people can have their car pick up their dry cleaning, make their Costco run, or pick up their kids from school or from a play-date, American adults will wonder what the fuss was all about.

But there may be little time for people to become comfortable with self-driving cars before they are on the road en masse. Indeed, the scariest (perceptually at least) scenario of a self-driving vehicle I bet is not a passenger sedan at highway speeds with no driver in it, but a multi-ton, semi hauler with three 30,000-pound trailers, going 65 with no driver behind the wheel. Indeed, according to the research:

More than six in 10 U.S. adults (62%) indicate they would be extremely uncomfortable or uncomfortable sharing the road with self-driving trucks, compared with 20% who would be extremely comfortable or comfortable doing so.

But again, progress is not waiting to soothe fears: Companies invested more than $1 billion in 2017 alone into the development of self-driving trucks. The development of self-driving trucks is viewed as posing less difficulty than self-driving cars because of their primary use on open stretches of road, and the trucking industry is seen as primed for automation. Uber says for example, that their self-driving trucks already are delivering cargo in Arizona. You can bet self-driving cars on public city streets aren’t far behind.

So what can we expect to see in the future? I think we’re going to see progress towards these technologies. Much like Copiosis, the genie is out of the bottle. That means, like all progressive topics, humans are just going to have to get over themselves and realize they may be able to slow it, but progress is coming nonetheless. Read the full survey report here.

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