2014 Mercedes-Benz S Class autonomous steering simulator
ORC International, at the behest of the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies (via Forbes), recently surveyed 1,000 car-buying adults to see how the public really feels about a computer being in charge of the wheel. The result? Only 18 percent said they'd buy an autonomous car.
What's the major concern? Trust.
It's one thing to like the idea of a highway full of computer-controlled cars, cars that never get drowsy or distracted or decide it's time to go on a Twitter rampage while doing 80 mph in the slow lane. But it turns out it's another thing entirely to trust a computer with your own life. Two-thirds of those surveyed wouldn't do it.
Another 78 percent of people wouldn't feel safe subjecting their loved ones' lives to a digital pilot.
This, of course, is only natural. Who among us hasn't had a computer go all Blue Screen of Death on us? The computer crash could take on a whole new meaning.
In an interesting twist, most of the drivers surveyed (up to 88 percent) are fans of the technologies that underpin driverless cars, but they want technologies like lane-departure warning or forward collision warning to alert them, to aid them, rather than to replace them.
One angle not considered by the survey is whether people want to give up the actual experience of driving. Even for those of us burdened with a traffic-choked commute every morning and night, there's something to be said for just getting behind the wheel, unplugging from the digital sphere for a while, and doing one simple, satisfying task.