How do we feel about driverless cars?

Driverless cars are both an exciting and scary prospect. We asked some members of the public how they’re feeling about them.  

Every week, the news seems to be telling us that driverless cars are a step closer to becoming a commonplace reality. With 53 pieces of legislation relating to self-driving vehicles already set in the US, it seems that the concept creeped up on us pretty fast.

Until recently, the technology only seemed to belong to sci-fi movies.

But as Bill Gates once said:

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”

It seems certain that driverless cars are on their way, so we can now take the idea a bit more seriously.

So what’s the public feeling?

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How do you feel about driverless cars? Are you excited or not so keen?

A quick CANSTAR quiz yielded the following observations and feelings about driverless car technology.

Some respondents were keen…

  • “They’re a great idea for those people who struggle with mobility, giving people more freedom to get around. This is provided they one day become affordable of course.”
  • “Excited for them. Interested by them in terms of how the law will change to involve them into our daily lives once they become advanced enough. I do support them and hope to see the first driverless car in Australia come on the market within the next 10 years.
  • “I think they are great. Reduce human error in driving, reduce number of cars on the road with effective ride sharing and on call technology, hopefully reduce energy use and reduce the size and scale of roads required for them over time since human error requires wide lanes because we can’t drive straight.”
  • “I am so excited for driverless cars.  I hate driving as it bores me to death and I am a shocking driver, self-admitted – with plenty of witnesses, so driverless cars will be perfect for me.  I can also get a lot done while I am driving them.”
  • “An army of driverless cars would be good for a taxi service. I’d catch a driverless cab/uber.”
  • “I’m pumped.  Being driven to work where I can read without having to make small talk or put up with all the hassles of public transport.  How could you not be excited about driverless cars? How much would I be willing to pay? I’d expect it to be a standard feature soon, so not pay any extra.”

Some were not so keen…

  • “I am not keen about driverless cars. I love the feeling of being in control of my own vehicle. In essence, I think I don’t trust machines to do everything for me, because I have had too many computers /smartphones /music players /Kindles /internets break down, leaving me to do things the old-fashioned way. I would not want a driverless car to break down and get stuck driving in a straight line around a cliff corner.”
  • “A driverless car does not appeal to me at all. There is always the potential for system error or failure. Plus I want to drive the car, not be driven.”
  • “It’s such a big change, that I wouldn’t be comfortable in a driverless car, until they became more commonplace, and I could see that they were actually safe.”

Some decided to sit on the fence…

  • “I can see both pros and cons. On the one hand, we love going camping on the weekends, and I don’t think that beach driving would be quite so much fun in a driverless car. On the other hand, I love the idea of my kids, when they are old enough to drive, being safe on the road. Driverless cars also have fantastic potential benefits for the older generation who may get beyond an age where they can drive safely but who nevertheless want the mobility that comes with driving. As another example, my mother recently had a hip replacement operation and is not able to drive for the next eight weeks. A driverless car would enable her to still get out and about, do the shopping, pay the bills and visit friends.”

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Would you ever buy a driverless car? If so, how much would you be willing to pay for one?

Respondents to this question were less certain of the value. Some comments included:

Probably

  • “I would buy one and would be happy to pay more than your standard vehicle for the luxury of watching Netflix from the back seat while I’m driven to the movies.”
  • “I am not one to pay too much for a car as I don’t see the value of them but it would definitely be on my list to see if the advantages outweighed the price.”
  • “I’d buy one. With regards to price, I’d expect it (driverless technology) to be a standard feature soon, so I wouldn’t pay any extra.”

Probably not

  • “No, I personally enjoy driving too much to let a robot do it for me. If I were to buy one let’s just say it’d defiantly have to be a Mercedes and let’s assume I am rich by then so $100,000.”
  • “I wouldn’t buy one, but it may get to the stage when driver cars are no longer available.”

Maybe

  • “I have heard from a reliable source that Tesla’s electric cars, which already have driverless technology, are only around $US 30,000. This compares to other developers who are pricing them around $US 350,000 plus. So around $US 30,000 is what I’d be willing to pay.”
  • “I would buy one if it was overall safer and no more expensive than a petrol car. I’m more interested in them as part of a public transport network that operates like Uber or taxis, which for the most part would mean you don’t need a car at all.”
  • “I don’t have a problem with the concept, and eventually it would be great to have one with no more need for a designated driver, but I won’t be joining in until I know for sure it’s safe. It doesn’t help that there are comedic skits about driverless cars, such as on Silicon Valley, where a guy gets trapped in a driverless car and shipped off to a completely robotic island with no way to call for help.”

 

Final word

No matter how you feel about them, the prospect of driverless cars on our roads is a fascinating one. Commuting is a big part of daily life – seriously, consider how much time we spend on roads each day – so any changes can drastically shake-up  the way we live. The idea of driverless technology could also reduce the need for personal car insurance, but that’s years from now. A good car insurance policy is still vital.

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