Industry Update: Fear and the Future of Self-Driving Cars

In the past week, Tesla has made aspirational statements regarding self-driving cars becoming more common on the roads, and sooner than many expect. According to a recent article from Transport Topics, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, stated that by the middle of next year, 1 million Teslas will be on the road that are able to drive themselves.

“The fundamental message that consumers should be taking today, [is that] it is financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla,” Musk said April 22 at Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto, CA. “It will be like owning a horse in three years.”

As Tesla narrows its brand focus to self-driving cars, the outspoken CEO truly believes that these cars will not only become typical in the automotive industry, but will render traditionally driven cars as obsolete as a horse would be.

But even with all the technological hype, Americans seem to be pushing back. According to American Automobile Association’s recent survey, 71% of Americans “would be afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle.” Additional findings show that shorter distances, lower speeds, and deliveries may prove to be more popular for consumers.

  • About half (53 percent) of U.S. drivers would be comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles being used for people mover systems found at airports and theme parks.
  • About four in ten (44 percent) of U.S. drivers would be comfortable with using fully self-driving vehicles for delivery services of food or packages.
  • Only 19 percent of U.S. drivers would be comfortable with the use of fully self-driving vehicles to transport their children or loved ones.

Automated driving technologies certainly aren’t new. Modern cars have lane-keeping software, cruise control, and even automatic braking. But for many Americans, having a small light on your side mirror telling you that a car is in your blind spot is very different from sitting in the seat of your own vehicle while your car drives itself.

Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations said in a statement about the survey that much of this anxiety could simply be fear of the unknown. “Despite fears still running high, AAA’s study also shows that Americans are willing to take baby steps toward incorporating this type of technology into their lives,” said Brannon. “Hands-on exposure in more controlled, low-risk environments coupled with stronger education will play a key role in easing fears about self-driving cars.”

Insurance Journal recently reported that based on test drives, deadly crashes are not the incidents to be feared; rather, the higher risk is of minor collisions due to impatient humans who are not accustomed to cautious robots that are programmed follow clear rules.

We at Drivemode will be looking towards the future and following these new developments in automotive technology closely. And for those road warriors who won’t give up driving themselves just yet, we’ll be here with safer, smarter auto tech solutions to help you get the most out of your drive.


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