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AAA: Motorists aren’t quite ready to trust self-driving cars

Who's afraid of the self-driving car? Apparently, most people.
Who's afraid of the self-driving car? Apparently, most people.

What drives you? In the future it could be your car.

But is the driving public ready to become the riding public as the commercial viability of self-driving cars comes closer to reality?

According to AAA East Central in Allentown – no, not quite yet.

The association just released a survey of American motorists that found three out of four are afraid of the idea of riding in a self-driving car, and only one-in-five Americans says he or she would trust an autonomous vehicle to drive itself.

The results aren’t particularly surprising. Giving up control of a fast-moving motor vehicle is a bit scary.

After all, nearly 34,000 people are killed in traffic-related accidents each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Do you really want to leave your fate in the hands of a computer while on a busy highway?

Those surveyed balked at the technology for different reasons. Most, 84 percent, said they simply trusted their own driving skills more than technology, while about 60 percent felt the technology was too new and unproven.

But, autonomous driving features on vehicles are put there for increased safety, and many already are available in cars on the road today – perhaps even in your own vehicle.

Automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology or lane-keeping assistance are all semi-automated technologies for vehicles and are popular.

The survey showed more than 60 percent of Americans would like one or more of those features on their next vehicle.

The survey also shows those little baby steps may be the key to getting the public to accept the idea of driverless vehicles.

It showed drivers who already own vehicles equipped with semi-autonomous features are, on average, 75 percent more likely to trust the technology than those that do not own it, suggesting that a gradual experience with more advanced autonomous driving features can ease consumer fears.

Certainly there would be many advantages to driverless cars. Work productivity could skyrocket as people have their hands free to catch up on projects during their morning and afternoon commutes. Or, we could all just have more time to play games on our phones, or get an extra 10 minutes of sleep because we can slap on our makeup in the car.

Imagine the possibilities. The average American commutes 25.5 minutes to and from work each day. That’s nearly an extra hour of free time for everyone.

I’m going to be one of the ones playing games – and I’m already on board.

Heck, the extra free time isn’t even the biggest motivation. A self-driving car would fulfill all of my early childhood fantasies of having my own Herbie the Love Bug.

Already, I pretend I’m driving the car from “Knight Rider” when I use my voice controls.

As soon as self-driving cars are available to buy – and at a price point that’s affordable on a writer’s salary – I want one.

The auto industry simply needs to ease the motoring public into the idea of the autonomous vehicle with improved and affordable assistive-driving technology. So when the day arrives that we can hand over the steering wheel, we’re a little more comfortable with the idea.

I’ll be doing it. So watch out – I’m riding.


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