Majority prefer driverless technology

July 22, 2015 by Bernie Degroat, University of Michigan

While only a small percentage of drivers say they would be completely comfortable in a driverless car, a sizable amount would have no problem as long as they retain some control, according to a University of Michigan report.

Researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of the U-M Transportation Research Institute examined motorists' preferences for vehicle automation, including their overall concern about riding in self-driving cars.

They surveyed 505 licensed drivers and found about 44 percent prefer to retain full control while driving. Nearly 16 percent would rather ride in a completely self-driving vehicle, while almost 41 percent said they prefer a partially self-driving vehicle with only occasional control by the driver.

Male drivers and drivers under 45 are more likely to favor partially or completely self-driving vehicles, the researchers say.

"Self-driving vehicles are often discussed in regard to their potential safety, energy-consumption and environmental benefits, or the existing technical challenges that must be overcome for their successful implementation," Schoettle said. "However, less attention has been paid to considering the actual level of automation, if any, that drivers desire in their vehicle."

While about two-thirds of those surveyed said they are at least moderately concerned about riding in completely self-driving vehicles, that percentage drops to less than half for partially self-driving cars. Women and those 45 and older are more apt to have concerns with either level of automation.

According to the U-M report, nearly all respondents (96 percent) would want to have a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals available in completely self-driving vehicles.

As for partially self-driving vehicles, 59 percent of those surveyed said they prefer a combination of three warning modes (sound, visual, vibration) to notify when to take control of the vehicle. About 19 percent thought that sound and visuals would be enough.

Schoettle and Sivak defined the three levels of automation as:

  • Completely self-driving: The vehicle will control all safety-critical functions, even allowing the vehicle to travel without a passenger if required.
  • Partially self-driving: The driver will be able to hand over control of all safety-critical functions to the ; only occasional control by the driver will be required.
  • No self-driving: The driver will always be in complete control of all safety functions, but the driver will be assisted with various advanced technologies.

Explore further: Driverless cars are a catch 22—we do none of the driving, but take all of the responsibility

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