Like It Or Not, Autonomous Cars Are Coming

Long before the technology was even conceived, there used to be jokes about robots taking over the world. 

That might still be down the road, but for now, they simply want to take over your driving responsibilities. Despite consumer anxiety, there are plenty of ways automakers can sell this to a doubtful public. How about never having to worry about having a car accident again and finally having the time to catch up on reading or TV/movie watching?

Tesla Motors Inc., BMW AG, General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Volvo Cars have each pledged production of fully autonomous cars within five years.

The U.S. Transportation Department is set to open 10 autonomous vehicle testing tracks across the country, providing critical support for the development of self-driving car technologies, including two in California and one in Michigan. Automakers will share the facilities and data.

While these closed tracks will prove important for testing AI systems, this is only one piece of the connected car puzzle. Cyber security is also critical — preventing autonomous vehicles from potentially malicious hacks, running the gamut from data breaches to ransomware to taking control of steering and braking systems and more. 



Automotive cyber security company Argus Cyber Security is one outfit working with manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers to ensure cyber security is a foremost concern, even in the car’s infancy.

So who exactly is the most excited to embrace this technology? Quantcast pulled some search data about self-driving cars and was able to determine who is most interested in it, which states are most interested and what issues people are concerned about.

Self-driving car searchers were male, 18 - 35 years old, higher income $50K-plus, college/grad school educated and Asian/Hispanic. Top states of self-driving car searchers indexed to state population were California, Washington, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Two distinct trends arose from self-driving cars: people interested in safety versus people interested in the technology.

People interested in safety tended to be more evenly split between male/female, 45+ years old, lower income ($0-50K), no college and Asian; top cars owned were top rated safety cars according to Kelley Blue Book: Volvo, Audi and Subaru. The legality of self-driving cars could have caught the attention of lawmakers since lawyers, government and marketing occupations ranked highest.

People interested in technology skewed heavily toward males, younger 18 - 44 years old, higher income $50K+, grad school, Asian/Hispanic; top cars owned: Tesla, Porsche and Lexus. Tesla owners unsurprisingly indexed highly as drivers tend to be early adopters. Lexus drivers also indexed highly as Lexus is one of the most tested self-driving car models tested not by their own manufacturer; higher paid occupation indexed highly: Engineers, consultants and medical.

Statistics aside, not all automakers are on board. Robert Davis, Mazda senior vice president of U.S. operations, racer, and race-team owner, is one auto executive not enamored with self-driving technology.

“You can pry the steering wheel out of my cold, dead hand,” Davis told Marketing Daily recently at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. “The autonomous position we take is that the human brain is the most powerful and valuable computer in the car, and will be for some time. We are firmly on the side of driving.”

So bottom line, if you don’t want a self-driving car, you will probably still have options at least for a while. It’ll be interesting to see how the robots react to human driver error. Will there be cursing programmed into the car’s intelligence system? Probably not, but maybe that’s something human passengers can help teach the robots.

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