The July 2017 issue of Westways, the monthly voice of The Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA), featured the article, Drivers Wanted, a survey of consumer fear of driverless cars. Are Americans ready for the day when the car next to them at the traffic light does not have a driver? In short, no, according to this new AAA survey.
The survey of ordinary car drivers said that 78% reported feeling afraid to ride in a fully self-driving car. No steering wheel. No pedals. Even though they are safer and more efficient.
From the survey comes this bit of interesting information. “Fear of self-driving cars is generational. Baby Boomers are more afraid of sharing the road than Gen Xers, who are slightly more fearful than Millennials.” So as soon as we all grow up the fears will subside.
This is much like complaining about the cold in winter and the heat in summer. Here are the multitudes complaining about the emissions of gasoline powered vehicles and the safety issues of heavy traffic, drunk driving and texting while driving. Yet when the ideal solution is presented – driverless cars – they are skeptical. “Well, that’s nice. But not quite what I had in mind.”
Greg Brannon, director of AAA Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations said, “A great race toward autonomy is under way, and companies are vying to introduce the first driverless cars to our roadways. However, while US drivers are eager to buy vehicles equipped with autonomous technology, they continue to fear a fully self-driving vehicle.”
But the people making vehicles are moving toward the future. Volvo announced that all new models in 2019 will be fully electric or hybrid. Rolls Royce has also declared that they will skip the hybrid step and go straight to electric cars.
However, the Rolls Royce CEO, Torsten Muller-Otvos, provides a very skeptical view of when that will happen.
“There is a time—nobody can predict when—when there will be no combustion engines. That will take a long, long time, but it will happen.”
In the meantime, Rolls Royce will continue to focus on “opulence and delivering a luxurious driving experience.” Got it.
In the driverless category is Waymo, the Google company that has been making steady progress in development of a fleet of driverless cars. As of June 2016 the driverless vehicles had logged 1.725 million miles, or an average of over 75,000 for each of its fleet of 23 vehicles. For the first part of 2017 the number is 636,868 miles logged driverless.
Tesla, Ford and the state of Michigan seem to each in their own special way be leading the charge for driverless vehicles. Tesla and Ford producing while Michigan has developed an all-weather testing center.
If you build it, they will come!