Majority of Americans Concerned About Riding in Self-Driving Cars, Poll Says

But does anyone care?

byStephen Edelstein|
Majority of Americans Concerned About Riding in Self-Driving Cars, Poll Says

As automakers, tech companies, and the federal government continue to plunge headlong into a future of self-driving cars, yet another poll shows Americans may not be ready for them. Two-thirds of Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of riding in a self-driving car, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.

Results varied significantly by gender and age. Men were more likely to be comfortable with self-driving cars than women, and millennials were more likely to trust them than baby boomers. Overall, just 27 percent of respondents said they would be comfortable riding in a self-driving car.

You don't have to look hard to find negative attitudes toward self-driving cars. Another recent poll, conducted by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, found that the majority of Americans were apprehensive about sharing the road with autonomous vehicles. In a recent AAA survey, 63 percent of respondents said they would be afraid of riding in a fully-autonomous vehicle, although AAA noted that percentage was lower than it was a year ago.

Regarding the results of its opinion poll, Reuters noted that most respondents had never ridden in a self-driving car. While autonomous cars have become a more common sight on public roads, particularly in states like California and Arizona, very few members of the public have ridden in them. Getting the chance to experience autonomous driving firsthand might make people less wary of the technology.

But the companies developing self-driving cars will likely push them to market regardless of public opinion. General Motors plans to launch an autonomous ride-sharing service in 2019, and is so confident in the technology that it is preparing a self-driving car with no manual controls.

Whether customer confidence matches that of GM executives is probably immaterial. Companies are sinking lots of resources into self-driving cars, and all of that time and money will go to waste if they never go into mass production. Safety advocates are also eager to replace irresponsible human drivers with machines, and tech companies see autonomous cars as conduits for money-generating content.

Those forces are driving the push toward self-driving cars, not public opinion. The question is how automakers and tech companies will win over a skeptical public and get people to actually use their autonomous vehicles.