Oh, Let the Computer Do the Steering

If a self-driving or autonomous car were available, one in five Americans say they’d never take the wheel again, a survey found.

While 20% of the 2,000 licensed drivers surveyed by CarInsurance.com said they would gladly turn over the keys, interest in autonomous vehicles soared at the prospect of dramatically reduced insurance costs.

More than a third of survey respondents said an 80% discount on car insurance rates would make their purchase of an autonomous vehicle “very likely,” and 90% said they would at least consider the idea.

Cars that park themselves, navigate stop-and-go-traffic or avert an impending collision are already on U.S. roads today. Nissan has promised to deliver a fully autonomous vehicle to showrooms by 2020. A fully automated vehicle that doesn’t need a human operator could someday follow.

Trust could be a big hurdle, according to survey results:

  • 64% said computers were incapable of the same quality of decision-making that human drivers exhibit;
  • 75% said they can drive a car better than a computer could; and
  • 75% wouldn’t trust a driverless car to take their children to school.

The survey also asked consumers which companies they would trust most to deliver driverless-car technology.

  • Communications company, such as Sprint or Verizon: 1%
  • Consumer products company, such as Apple or Samsung: 12%
  • Software company, such as Google or Microsoft: 15%
  • Start-up automaker, such as Tesla: 18%
  • Traditional automaker, such as Honda, Ford or Toyota: 54%

Asked what they would do with their additional free time, drivers responded:

  • Text/talk with friends: 26%
  • Other: 21%
  • Read: 21%
  • Sleep: 10%
  • Watch movies: 8%
  • Play games: 7%
  • Work: 7%

“Other” included two write-ins: More than 10% of respondents wrote in some variation of “enjoy the scenery” and 9% wrote in “watch the road,” “hold on for dear life” or something similar.