Survey: Two-thirds of Americans won't buy a self-driving car

April 3, 2019

Americans aren't ready to give up their steering wheels and pedals. About two-thirds of respondents to a survey said they do not want to buy a self-driving car.

The new poll comes from Reuters, which surveyed 2,022 Americans on their thoughts about self-driving cars. Not only were respondents not interested in owning an autonomous vehicle, but they also said that they don't trust them. Half of the respondents said they think self-driving cars are less safe than a traditional vehicle with a human behind the wheel. The results underscore the challenge ahead as technology grows smarter and self-driving cars actually begin to hit the road.

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Even if Americans do feel like they're ready to step into a self-driving car, 63 percent of them said they would not pay any more money to include such features in a new vehicle. The remaining respondents said they'd pay no more than $2,000 extra for self-driving capability. Today, the technology is far from being ready for commercialization. The findings are similar to a poll administered in 2018, which shows attitudes toward self-driving cars have barely shifted.

Experts said the poll still isn't a clear snapshot since very few Americans have experienced a self-driving car. If the public realizes their benefits, acceptance may start to weigh out any negative feelings. Dan Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, said these reactions are mostly emotional as Americans react to preconceived notions or news stories about self-driving cars.

Incidents like Uber's fatal crash between a self-driving car and a pedestrian in Arizona last year don't help sway the public.

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When autonomous cars do begin to proliferate, two-thirds of those surveyed also said they should be held to a higher safety standard than conventional cars and they believe the U.S. government should play an important role in regulating them. So far, the federal government hasn't done much to advance the technology. Bills to put more self-driving cars on local roads have stalled and the NHTSA has yet to submit an answer on allowing self-driving cars an exemption to traditional safety standards.

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