Self-driving what? Autonomous cars remain a mystery to most Americans

  • TECH
  • Saturday, 08 Oct 2016

Uber tests their concept for autonomous vehicle technology. (Uber/TNS)

For the majority of Americans, the biggest hurdle to adopting autonomous vehicles might not be safety concerns. 

It might be explaining what the heck an autonomous vehicle is. 

A report released recently found that six out of 10 people surveyed said they have little to no knowledge about autonomous cars. And 51% of respondents said they'd prefer to have full control of their car, according to data compiled by Kelley Blue Book. 

The report comes as Silicon Valley is charging full-speed ahead toward a world where roads are filled entirely by cars with no one in the driver's seat. Uber's first self-driving cars started picking up passengers in Pittsburgh in September and Lyft is planning for fleets of self-driving cars within five years. 

But the new Kelley Blue Book data illustrates the disconnect between those living in the Bay Area tech bubble – where Google's self-driving cars are a frequent sight in Mountain View – and people in the rest of the world. 

"The industry is talking a lot about self-driving vehicles these days, with multiple automakers and ride-share companies throwing their hats in the competition to build and release the first fully autonomous vehicle to consumers," Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, wrote in a news release. "Much is still unknown about fully autonomous vehicles, including how they would react in emergency situations." 

Even so, 63% of Americans believe that roads would be safer if autonomous vehicles were standard, according to the report, compared to 37% who think roads are safer with people in control. 

Feelings about autonomous cars also vary depending on the respondents' age. Of people ages 12-15, 43% said they know a lot about autonomous cars, compared to 1% of Baby Boomers. 

Kelley Blue Book surveyed 2,200 US residents between the ages of 12 and 64 years old. — The Mercury News/Tribune News Service

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