Survey: Safety top consumer priority for driverless cars

It will be years before driverless cars are available to the public thanks to technological and regulatory hurdles, but a new survey suggests that a delay is required for another reason as well: to get people comfortable with the idea of handing the wheel over to a computer.

TE Connectivity Ltd. today shared the results of a survey it commissioned on autonomous vehicles, and as you would expect with a game-changing technology that few have experienced for themselves, a majority of respondents were not ready to go driverless.

About 70 percent of respondents said they would not be comfortable in an autonomous vehicle, while 30 percent said they would. Safety technology was cited by more than half as the most important thing that needs to be enhanced before driverless cars become accepted by the general public, whereas only 4 percent thought “info-tainment” features needed improvement.

The biggest concerns were also what you might expect. Relinquishing full control, higher speed capacity and the ability of the car to reach destinations without driver input topped the list. A full 60 percent of consumers were reluctant to give up full control.

As for the biggest advantages, improved fuel efficiency and less traffic congestion were cited most frequently. Perhaps the most obvious effect of driverless cars, relief from driving and navigation responsibilities, was seen as the biggest advantage by 13 percent of respondents, followed by enhanced productivity (11 percent) and higher speed limits (4 percent). Participants between the ages of 18-54 saw enhanced productivity (or the ability to multitask) as a more significant benefit than those 65 or older.

In general, men were more at ease with the idea of driverless cars, with 34 percent saying they were comfortable with the technology compared to 24 percent of women. There were also differences among age groups, with 18-34 year olds (38 percent) being more comfortable than 55-64 year olds (20 percent) and those 65 or older (18 percent). The survey also notes that 70 percent of those with children of driving age (13-17 years old) said they were uncomfortable with autonomous vehicles.

“Significant progress already has been made in developing autonomous and semi-autonomous safety functions,” Steven Merkt, president of transportation solutions for TE Connectivity, said when releasing the results. “With consumers citing safety as their top concern for getting comfortable with the idea of driverless vehicles, it’s clear that the industry is moving in the right long-term direction and that consumer education on safety features will play an important part in adoption of the technology.”

The survey was conducted May 16-19 by ORC International and was based on 1,000 landline and cell phone interviews of U.S. adults. TE Connectivity manufactures a variety of electronic connectors and sensors for automotive and other industries.

[ photo courtesy of Google ]