Self-driving cars offer a host of benefits. According to AutoByTel.com, the number one cause of traffic accidents is driver error. If drivers are replaced by computers—programmed and ready to take on the unexpected—everyone would be collectively safer. Beyond that, autonomous vehicles could also make huge strides in reducing traffic congestion, lowering fuel consumption, and increased access to transportation for disabled groups.
AARP's Katherine Skiba and Tim Appel referred to Matthew Lesh of Comet Mobility for insight. According to Lesh:
"...automation should provide that new tool to right the wrongs in our existing system: congestion, unsafety, inefficiency, social isolation.”
Even so, according to AAA, the majority of Americans are still nervous to ride in self-driving cars.
AAA’s annual automated vehicle survey found that 71 percent of people are afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles.
Although many drivers are willing to use semi-autonomous tools that offer help with parking and staying in a single lane, many people remain wary of autonomous technology. Unfortunately, autonomous vehicles have already failed customers, leading to a number of injuries and fatalities.
Those who are skeptical that fully self-driving cars will arrive that soon, cite reasons such as lack of trust, not wanting to give up driving, the technology won’t be ready and that road conditions will not be good enough to support the technology.
For those who simply love driving and don't want to give it up, Fortune's Gene Munster has an encouraging perspective:
A final thought for those of us who love to drive and dread the thought of an autonomous car: You’ll have your chance to drive, but it will become a hobby, like horseback riding. And you’ll have plenty of time to prepare for your drive on the way to the track—in your self-driving car.
With talks of driverless fleets and driverless motorcycles swirling, perhaps drivers will be more inclined to treat driving as something they do on occasion, rather than a daily necessity. People must be willing to change their behavior and adapt when the time is right. Otherwise, the many benefits of autonomous vehicles could be reversed.
According to engineer and author of the new book "No One at the Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future" Samuel I. Schwartz, driverless cars are a legitimate reason for concern. In an interview with the Wharton School, Schwartz comments:
We’re hyping the fact that there will be fewer traffic deaths, and that’s true. But we could achieve a lot fewer traffic deaths by many of the devices that will be in autonomous vehicles, such as automatic braking, collision-avoidance systems, blind-spot monitoring and lane controls. We could save lives right now. But that seems to be the impetus for autonomous vehicles.
There's no need for cars to be fully autonomous in order for the public to reap possible benefits. Given that most Americans seem to still be uncomfortable with the idea of giving up their control behind the wheel, tech and car companies should prioritize vehicles that utilize semi-autonomous technology rather than becoming fully driverless.