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What do people think about autonomous cars? Results from our reader poll

What do people think are the main advantages of owning an autonomous car? Do people think autonomous cars should be easily identifiable? How much money are people willing to pay for an autonomous car anyway? In collaboration with the Open Roboethics initiative (ORi), we wanted to shed light on these and other questions, so we asked you, our readers and members of our collective social media networks, to weigh in. Here’s what 114 respondents have said over the last two weeks.

Survey1 Q1

What do you think are the main advantages of owning an autonomous car?

Perhaps this is unsurprising, but “Less traffic accidents!” seems to be the general consensus here. Over eighty percent of all respondents (83%) said that one of the main advantages of autonomous cars is reduction of the number of traffic accidents. The next set of popular answers were that autonomous cars will free up time and energy spent on driving (77%), allow those who are not licensed to drive will be able to get to places more conveniently (71%), and that it would reduce traffic congestion (67%). One point that surprised at least some of us was that only 40% of the respondents consider improvements to taxi and car-sharing services as a main advantage.

This may be surprising because, some of us current users of car-sharing services or frequent customers of taxi-cabs could easily imagine the improvements autonomous cars could have (e.g., no need to park shared cars at specific locations). But it is likely that more people have their own vehicles and may not consider this improvement as one of the main advantages. We also received a wide range of interesting responses from those who told us about ‘other’ advantages of the technology (11%). The responses range from “it will be cool!” – yes, we agree – to specific statements about fuel efficient driving, being able to ride a car while intoxicated/texting/eating/working, and the potential to improve delivery services and reducing shipping and delivery costs.

Survey1 Q2

What is the maximum amount (USD) you would pay extra for a fully autonomous car?

Given that most people chose at least one advantage to autonomous cars, it was interesting to find out how much people were willing to pay for the technology. When asked about how much they would be willing to pay for a fully autonomous car, 66% of the respondents said that they would pay over $3000 (USD) in addition to what a conventional version of the car would cost. Only 5% said that they would never buy an autonomous car, while 12% said that they would buy the car regardless of the price. This is actually a very different result compared to a study conducted by Accenture Research in 2010, in which they reported that 51% of people would not feel comfortable using an autonomous car. It’s possible that people’s attitude about autonomous cars have changed over the 4 year period, or that our survey attracted more people from the technology industry given that majority of Robohub’s readers are technology enthusiasts or working in technology sector.

Survey1 Q3Should an autonomous car be easily identifiable?

According to our survey, 61% of people think that autonomous cars should be easily identifiable, similar to taxicabs and police cars. This made us raise questions about why most people would want to identify autonomous cars. Is it for having the bragging rights to show off what a cool car you drive? Is it because people want to be extra careful, or maybe less careful(?), when driving within the vicinity of an autonomous car? Or is it that traffic policing could be a nightmare somehow if police officers couldn’t tell apart autonomous cars from conventional cars? Maybe people think that it doesn’t hurt to make them distinguishable, whereas not being able to distinguish them from conventional cars might have negative implications.

Over the two-week period, we collected a total of 114 responses, which we think is amazing given that this is the very first poll of this sort ORi has worked on. If you didn’t get to participate in the poll this time around, don’t be disappointed. We will be releasing our reader polls every other Tuesday on Robohub (yes, that includes tomorrow), so you can check back and let us know what you think.

The results of the poll presented in this post have been analyzed and written by AJung Moon, Camilla Bassani, Shalaleh Rismani and Fausto Ferreira at the Open Roboethics initiative.

Open Roboethics Initiative is a roboethics thinktank concerned with studying robotics-related design and policy issues... read more

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