Commentary

Drivers Not Lining Up For Driverless Cars

The Internet of Things will bring behavioral changes in many areas, including the role of drivers in cars.

But the idea of driverless cars seems to be up against some serious consumer feelings that may  keep them out of buying into the idea, at least for now.

If the volume and intensity of comments to a new study of driverless cars I wrote about here earlier this week (Driverless cars: Majority Don’t Believe They Will Ever Own One; 60% Of Millennials) is any indication, there is some serious sentiment about the issue.

Some complex issues were raised, such as in this comment from Mark:

“Who programs the ‘moral code’ of the systems? When a collision is unavoidable, which car is sacrificed?  By age, value of the car, number of occupants?   And when it all come crashing down, and a bus is hit, as it did on Valentine's day in California, what are the insurance responsibilities?  The car owner, manufacturer, GPS program, Google, Apple, the hacker???  Driverless cars is the dumbest technology idea to ever come down the pike.”

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Some of the comments dealt with the issue of the pleasure of driving a car. For example, this comment from Jonathan states it quite well: “What about getting into why people drive and the enjoyment they get from it? This will (thankfully) keep driverless cars off the road for a long time.”

And the other side was represented as well, most notably by Jennifer, who stated:

“Driving can be fun, but also a huge waste of time and energy, as well as a seriously inefficient use of resources and income. I suspect in future we'll have auto parks where those who still want to get ‘behind the wheel,’ (what's that, mommy?) will be able to thoroughly enjoy themselves without any barriers or road rules or traffic jams.”

A most interesting and relevant broader behavioral issue was raised by Richard:

“In the future you won't need to own a driverless car - they will be offered like utilities as part of the ‘transportation cloud’ by Google, Uber and Apple. Like Zipcar, you'll pay as you use the service. A better question is if Uber, Google or Apple offered a driverless car service that picked you up and dropped you at a price similar to Uber, which service would you use.”

Totally coincidentally, a study on car sharing just came out with insights counter to what many may believe.

Fewer than half (43%) of consumers are aware of car sharing services, such as Zipcar, Enterprise CarShare, Car2Go or Hertz 24/7 and even fewer (7%) have ever used such a service, according to the study.

The study is based on a national survey of 1,999 U.S. adults weighted to Census figures and was conducted by Vital Findings for Kelley Blue Book.

Related to the future of driverless cars in the vehicle sharing paradigm, car sharing is not an imminent threat to someone buying a car. Here are the reasons for not owning or leasing a car in the future, according to the KBB survey:

  • 57% -- Cannot afford it
  • 28% -- Don’t like driving
  • 28% -- Don’t want to worry about vehicle maintenance
  • 27% -- Will use public transit instead
  • 22% -- Life circumstances do not require a vehicle
  • 18% -- Will use personally powered transport (walk, bike, etc.)
  • 3% -- Will use vehicle-sharing instead of owning my own vehicle

However, within the next five years, most (97%) car owners who have used vehicle sharing still plan to buy or lease a car.

At least for the time being, drivers are looking to stay behind the wheel.

10 comments about "Drivers Not Lining Up For Driverless Cars".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, March 11, 2016 at 9:28 a.m.

    Chuck, I've enjoyed reading your columns and following along with the debates in the comments. As driverless cars come closer to reality (still hopefully way down the road), it will be interesting to also see which brands are going to be first to fully invest in the technology, especially since driverless cars go against their brand positions.

    Those brands include VW (Drivers Wanted) and Mazda (Driving Matters). At some point I suspect they will give in and at least be ready with some type of automated technology. If the trouble I had in finding a new Mazda with manual transmission is any example, brands will change with the consumer preference, rather than stay true.

    What a bummer.

  2. Jeff Pugel from Essex Digital Platform, March 11, 2016 at 9:28 a.m.

    What's not being asked, nor addressed, is if people WANT driverless cars.   It reminds me of a saying:  "Just because you can doesn't mean you should."    But more importantly, what about those of us who actually enjoy driving and refuse to yield the wheel?   What then?  Would we be forced to do something we don't want to do/purchase (ala Obamacare) by the government?  So from this driver's seat, it's a cool technology but this side of the discussion will need to be addressed as well as it seems that the driver afficionado side is not being considered in this discussion.   

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, March 11, 2016 at 10:03 a.m.

    Thank you very much, Jonathan. Very good points. The tough one for the auto industry is what to do now, since their lead times are so long. Stay tuned!

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, March 11, 2016 at 10:09 a.m.

    Right, Jeff, though the majorty in the study we wrote about earlier this week do not expect to buy one. I'll be on the lookout for any research that addresses your very good question, thanks.

  5. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, March 11, 2016 at 10:17 a.m.

    Consumer demand for seat belts and airbags was nearly nonexistent when introduced, but now we have both anyway. If we vote in a manner that encourages governments to protect us from ourselves, or "do it for the children," then we can expect these cars to be common in the not-so-distant future. First, new laws might make it harder to get a driver's license to drive vehicles without AI. Then legislators might give a tax break (or a tax penalty) to entice/punish us. But consumer demand will play a very small role. Who chooses a stick shift anymore? A driverless car will free us to tend to our smartphones 24/7.

  6. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, March 11, 2016 at 10:22 a.m.

    Yes, Douglas, but it may be somewaht difficult to 'force' someone to get a new car.

  7. R MARK REASBECK from www.USAonly.US , March 11, 2016 at 10:46 a.m.

    Thanx for the venue to vent about this Chuck.  Jeff has my endorsement. and I've muttered those same words, "Just because you can..............."  ( Look at the debacle over the Apple I-phone privacy..............where will this end up?)
    If V-Dub goes with this technology, they can use this tag-line;  "Drivers Optional"

    Here is a great article that encompasses my thoughts and  the pitfalls of driverlass cars.  It brings yet another aspect that the surrounding drivers will "take advantage' of the predictability of driverless cars:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/03/autonomous-vehicles-malicious-drivers/


  8. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, March 11, 2016 at 11:04 a.m.

    You're most welcome, Mark, and thanks for sharing that interesting piece. 

  9. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, March 11, 2016 at 11:49 p.m.

    Google's borderline insane public response to the recent accident between one of their driverless cars and a city bus has set their long-term plans back years, at least. The video of the accident very clearly shows the Google vehicle pulling-out from the parking lane into a traffic lane, directly into the side of the moving bus. Before seeing the video, and just going by the written reports, I gave Google at least some benefit of the doubt when they claimed - inaccurately as the video shows - that the computer "assumed" that the bus would give right-of-way to the Google car. But the video shows the car hitting the middle of the bus, which obviously gave the bus driver no chance to avoid the incident, nor did the bus appear to slow down, which might indicate that the bus driver was yielding.

    There is absolutely no valid excuse for what the driverless car did, and yet Google decided to only admit partial responsibility, sounding very much like a drunk driver who admits to "only" having a "couple of beers" as he or she is handcuffed and tossed into the back of a patrol car after an accident.

    The fact is that the Google car had absolutely no legal right to do what it did (and it is SO weird trying to find a way to refer to the driver in an incident report when there isn't one).  Even if it had been a police car, with a "real" driver and had just turned-on the flashing lights and siren, it wouldn't be legally allowed to just drive into traffic. 

    The far too long-winded point I'm trying to make is that when any computer program is developed that involves safety, the morality of those developing the program comes into play. Whether the program is 100% safe, or "sorta safe" all depends on the human input during development. In this car vs bus case, and especially the aftermath, by not taking full responsibility Google's morality has definitely become an issue. 

    I can't help but wonder if Google's admission of "some" culpability would have been the same if the car had hit a bicyclist or motorcyclist, the outcome of which would have been much worse than a dented fender.





  10. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, March 12, 2016 at 11:40 a.m.

    Very well articulated, Chuck. Yes, there are some major issues here.

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