Generation Z for the Win: Today’s Teenagers Actually Want to Drive

The kids are all riiiiiiiiight...

Generation Z Driving Study
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Don't go writing off the future of the good, old fashioned, human-driven car just yet. As it turns out, the 17-and-under set known as Generation Z—the most tech-savvy group of human beings ever to exist—is exceedingly stoked to climb behind the wheel and start driving.

According to a new study by Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, 92 percent of Americans in Generation Z either own a car or plan on owning one. 97 percent of them have a driver's license or plan on getting one. And chew on this for a hot minute: Given the choice between having a car or using social media for a year, 72 percent of Generation Z respondents said they'd take the car.

Better yet, Gen Z-ers said they wanted to drive for all the best reasons. A full 32 percent said the thought of driving made them feel free, while 23 percent said it made them excited. And while many of them like the idea of self-driving cars—47 percent of respondents said they wanted most cars to drive themselves a decade from now—they feel that way not because they want to goof off on their phones, but because they think it will be safer. In fact, 43 percent said they believed safety features were an important consideration when getting a car, compared with 35 percent who felt that way about infotainment.

Generation Z is also pretty conservative when it comes to their car choices. While 42 percent want most cars to be hybrids or electric, they were more likely to say they wanted an environmentally-friendly car to save cash from lower gas bills, not for global warming concerns. Honda, Chevrolet, and Ford were all rated among the generation's preferred brands; when asked why, kids tended to say they found them traditional, practical, and trusted.

Now, as we are among the journalism world's thinkiest automotive philosophizers, we at The Drive can't help but wonder if Generation Z's automotive enthusiasm stems in part from novelty. Keep in mind, this is an entire generation that can't yet legally buy a pack of smokes. They've either never driven, or they're just starting to learn how. In contrast, they've been plugged into the Internet their entire lives. There's nothing new online for them—but the open road is a whole new frontier. Once driving becomes something they have to do instead of something they want to do, they may start clamoring for automotive autonomy harder than anyone.

But maybe, just maybe, enough of them will hold onto that love of driving to keep the likes of Google and Apple from pushing human-driven cars off the road altogether. Do that for us, Generation Z, and we'll buy you a drink. Once you're old enough, we mean, ya' little scamps.