Survey Gauges Public Opinion on Autonomous Driving

Autonomous driving remains a hot topic in our world of ever increasing technology. Today, the idea is more possible than ever but in the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Perhaps it’s extreme to match Jurassic Park with autonomous driving, but the question stands. The film examines the consequences of an over dependence on automation; later stated by John Hammond, Jurassic Park’s key visionary.

In my work in the automotive industry, I have autonomous driving conversations with dealership personnel and consumers alike. Although some embrace it fully, many emotions are otherwise negative to mixed.

Recently, Volvo published the results of their Future of Driving survey, the largest online survey of its kind with regard to autonomous driving. 10,000 respondents shared what they would want from an autonomous vehicle. As Volvo joins other manufactures desiring to pioneer the field, the survey’s results provide a blueprint for how consumers might embrace it.

92 percent of respondents believe they should be able to take control of autonomous cars at any moment for any reason. 81 percent say car manufacturers, not owners, must take responsibility in an accident. 90 percent feel autonomous cars should be able to pass a human driving test.

One of the biggest objections I hear revolves around the love and thrill of driving. Some believe it will take away the joy of owning their favorite vehicle and detract from a car enthusiast culture, very much focused on the experience of driving. 88 percent of respondents feel autonomous cars should respect the love of driving but there is an unique shift. 78 percent also believe such technology will make traveling more useful and worthwhile.

While I don’t want to speak for the participants of this survey, I am putting myself in their shoes. After a busy day, for example, it might be nice to trust your car to get you home safely while you nap. It might be nice to look up dinner recipes, answer e-mails, or read a book. In that case, yes, I could see travel being much more useful and worthwhile.

And then, there are those who like turbo charging and the rumbling, small block V8 engines. I imagine with an autonomous car, you would still hear those things but is it the same as using your own foot to illicit those sounds?

Who is to say autonomous vehicles will keep the mechanics associated with performance now? It’s entirely possible autonomous vehicles will be powered by alternative means – in fact, it’s probably more likely.

Between these two types of people, we have two different definitions of driving, proving joy behind the wheel is subjective. I see both sides but honestly think autonomous driving is coming soon, under a safety banner, with environmentally conscious tones.

Interestingly enough, the key phrase is “behind the wheel.” Respondents to the survey also noted the importance of having a steering wheel in an autonomous vehicle. The primary reason was the need to feel in control and to have the choice to ultimately drive the car. I’m not saying a GMO dinosaur monster is going to crush your off-road vehicle but I am saying there is an illusion in control – we don’t really have it, no matter the situation, autonomous driving included.

At the very least, we will redefine driving; at best, if we can run inference on all variables beyond our control, we may see an age where nobody is seriously injured or killed in an accident. For some, that latter factor overrides everything else wonderful we can say about our current, favorite cars. For others, a steering wheel adorning an autonomous vehicle may well be a paradoxical icing on the cake of irony.

What do you think of autonomous driving? Would you own an autonomous car? 

*Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of and resides in Detroit, Michigan.

You can participate in Volvo’s Future of Driving survey here. For additional information on autonomous driving, including where automakers are presently, the legalities of the matter, and insurance risks, our friends at Insurance 4 Car Hire created the wonderful infographic below.

Driverless Cars - Final

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