As loyal fans of our blog know, we cover multiple angles of autonomous or “self-driving” vehicles, including issues regulators, legislatures and Courts will undoubtedly face as the technology becomes more widespread, the ways auto manufacturers have responded to product liability concerns, and the intersection between cybersecurity vulnerabilities and driverless cars. For a recent post on driverless car technology involving Google’s latest patent on “human flypaper,” please see here. One of the points we have discussed is how “self-driving” technology is yet another example of science getting in front of the law. Now, a new study out of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute suggests that the technology may also be getting too far in front of consumers as well. A press release on the study is available here.

As reported last week, University of Michigan researchers surveyed 618 licensed drivers age 18 or older about their vehicle automation preferences. Some of the more notable statistics from the survey responses include:

  • 94.5% of respondents were not comfortable being in a car that doesn’t have a steering wheel, brake pedal, or accelerator.
  • As between three levels of automation — no self-driving, partial self-driving and complete self-driving — 46% prefer no self-driving, followed by 39% for partial and 16% for complete self-driving.
  • 48.4% of women said they want no self-driving capability compared with 43.1% of men.
  • Those between ages 30 and 44 were more likely to choose a complete self-driving vehicle (22.2%) than those between 18 and 29 (18.8%).
  • Slightly more (41.3%) of the 18- to 29-year-olds said they didn’t want to give any control to sensors and cameras than 30- to 44-year-olds (35.2%).
  • In response to the question would you be very concerned, moderately concerned, slightly concerned or not at all concerned about riding in a complete self-driving vehicles, the percentage saying they were “very concerned” was 37.2%.

One of the survey’s authors, Brandon Schoettle, commented that the results reflect “one of the hurdles that needs to be overcome for people to accept this technology. People still want to take control, and they’re afraid of truly giving up control.” He further noted that automakers were unlikely to slow down their efforts to achieve truly autonomous vehicles, but that survey data like this can tell them what features people want or don’t want. He noted that “[t]here’s going to be a limit to how fast you can push these vehicles on people because of legal and regulatory restraints.”

Of course, here at the Monitor, we will follow and report on those legal and regulatory restraints.