Self-driving cars are coming our way, and they’re prompting a lot of questions.
If a self-driving car is involved in a crash, who’s responsible: the person in the car, the manufacturer, or someone else?
Will these cars make our streets and highways safer?
Will they help to relieve traffic congestion?
As important as these questions are, we should also examine consumer attitudes and behavior as we prepare for a change in transportation that could be as transformative as the Interstate Highway System.
Through a recent study by the TTI Transportation Policy Research Center, we posed some of those consumer questions to drivers in Austin, Texas. Here’s a small sample of what we found out:
Half the people we asked said they can see a self-driving car in their future. And half said they can’t envision ever using one. That 50-50 split gets more interesting when you see why each group feels the way it does.
The “yes” group: has confidence in the technology, believes the cars will be safer than those driven by humans, and wants to avoid the stress of driving. Conversely, the “no” group: doesn’t trust the technology, has doubts about safety, and would prefer to have control of the car.
We also asked:
- What are the factors that influence acceptance of (and intent to use) self-driving cars?
- What is the appeal of self-driving vehicles for consumers?
- In what ways might self-driving cars prompt people to change their current travel behavior?
- How might self-driving vehicles affect traffic?
We know that the idea of automated vehicles will be transformative. No question there. Google has been testing self-driving cars in Austin for nearly a year. Austin is a finalist in the US DOT’s Smart City Challenge, and that could hasten further testing and deployment there. But based on our study, the extent to which the traveling public will embrace the idea remains to be seen.
Have a look at our research findings, and let us know in the comments section: Would you take a trip across town – to work, to a restaurant, to a movie, or wherever – in a self-driving car? Why or why not?
And the questions about the effects of automated vehicles on safety and congestion – we’re working on those, too. We plan to publish our findings soon.
Johanna Zmud is a Senior Research Scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
Ginger Goodin, P.E. is the Director of the Transportation Policy Research Center at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.