Opinions toward driverless vehicles split in Pew survey

A majority of respondents in a survey by the Pew Research Center said they were worried about the development of self-driving vehicles rather than enthusiastic. However, people favored this type of technology more than some other potential forms of automation, and generally agreed that it could help elderly and disabled people live more independent lives.

A total of 4,135 adults were questioned in telephone interviews. The survey was conducted between May 1 and 15.

Fifty-six percent said they wouldn't be willing to ride in a self-driving vehicle, while 44 percent said they would. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they were worried about the development of driverless vehicles, while 40 percent said they were enthusiastic.

Men were more likely to express enthusiasm about driverless vehicles, with 46 percent saying they were at least somewhat enthusiastic; only 34 percent of women had the same level of enthusiasm. Forty-nine percent of college graduates and 47 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 49 were enthusiastic about the technology.

Respondents were most likely to say they would be willing to ride in an autonomous vehicle if they had heard a lot about these developments, with 57 percent saying they would give it a try. Other groups expressing a significant interest in riding in a driverless vehicle included college graduates (56 percent), men (53 percent), urban residents (52 percent), and those ages 18 to 49 (51 percent).

Among those who said they would be willing to ride in a self-driving vehicle, 37 percent said they simply think it would be an interesting experience. Seventeen percent said they think an autonomous vehicle would be safer than one driven by a human, 15 percent said a self-driving vehicle would allow them to do other things during the ride, and 13 percent said they think the trip would be less stressful.

Forty-two percent of those who did not want to ride in a vehicle said they wouldn't trust it or would be worried about giving up control of the vehicle. Thirty percent said they would be concerned with safety, and 9 percent said they enjoy driving.

A majority of respondents said they would be at least somewhat concerned sharing the road with driverless vehicles. Sixty-five percent said they wouldn't feel safe on the same road with autonomous freight trucks, while 52 percent said they would not feel safe driving alongside autonomous passenger vehicles.

Thirty-nine percent said they believe the number of people killed or injured in crashes would decrease if self-driving vehicles became more widespread, while 31 percent said they think the number of deaths and injuries would stay about the same. Thirty percent said they believe traffic fatalities and injuries will become more common if driverless vehicles become more prevalent.

Eighty-seven percent said they would favor a requirement that all driverless vehicles have a human behind the wheel to take control in case of an emergency. In the current five levels of driving automation identified by the Society of Automotive Engineers, a driver is necessary to resume control in certain situations.

Eighty-three percent said they would be in favor of restricting self-driving vehicles to dedicated travel lanes. Sixty-nine percent said they would be in favor of preventing driverless vehicles from traveling in certain areas, such as school zones.

Those who were willing to ride in an autonomous vehicle were significantly more likely to be comfortable with them and see them as beneficial. Eighty-five percent said they would feel safe sharing the road with a driverless vehicle, compared to just 19 percent of those who were unwilling to ride in such a vehicle. Sixty-eight percent said they believe they will reduce deaths and injuries from crashes, while only 17 percent of those who would not ride in a driverless vehicle felt the same.

Respondents were most likely to believe that autonomous vehicles would help elderly and disabled people be more independent, with 75 percent of all respondents holding this opinion. This included 91 percent of those who were willing to ride in a driverless vehicle and 62 percent who were unwilling.

Just 28 percent of respondents believed that autonomous vehicles would help alleviate traffic congestion in major cities. Forty-three percent of those who were willing to ride in a driverless vehicle held this view, compared to only 16 percent of those who wouldn't want to ride in such a vehicle.

Eighty-one percent agreed that one likely outcome of the widespread adoption of driverless vehicles would be that people who drive for a living would lose their jobs. Seventy percent felt that a prevalence of autonomous vehicles would mean people would be less willing to learn how to drive, while 43 percent felt it would make vehicle ownership less important to people.

Just 6 percent of respondents said they have not heard anything about the development of autonomous vehicles, while 59 percent said they have heard a little about this topic and 35 percent have heard a lot. Two-thirds of respondents said the news they have received on self-driving vehicle development has been a mix of positive and negative, while 22 percent considered it to be mostly positive and 12 percent considered it to be mostly negative.

The majority of respondents—56 percent—said they expect most vehicles on the road to be driverless in 10 to 50 years. Twenty-three percent said they believe most vehicles will be autonomous in 50 to 100 years. Nine percent expect this situation to occur within 10 years, 5 percent believe it will take more than a century, and 8 percent think it will never happen.

Respondents showed more concern for certain other areas of automation than they did for self-driving vehicles. Seventy-two percent said they were worried about a future where many human jobs can be done by robots or computers, while 67 percent were worried about the development of algorithms that could help evaluate and hire job candidates. Respondents were less concerned about the development of robot caregivers for older adults, with 47 percent saying they were worried and 44 percent saying they were enthusiastic about this potential technological developement.

The level of enthusiasm toward autonomous vehicle development was slightly diminished from a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, which used a smaller sample size of 1,001 people. In that survey, half of respondents said they wouldn't ride in a driverless vehicle and 48 percent said they would.

READER COMMENTS

Loading comments...
Hide Comments