The biggest problem with self-driving cars is that a lot of people still love to drive

Uber driverless car
Uber’s driverless Pittsburgh fleet. Business Insider/Corey Protin

People can be divided into three groups when it comes to car ownership and driving: those who love it and wouldn’t have it any other way; those who hate it and think that owning an automobile is drudgery; and those in between who don’t feel strongly one way or the other, but need a vehicle for transportation.

Trying to figure out how these general attitudes will shape investment in driverless technology over the next 20 years is very important.

So Kelley Blue Book surveyed 2,264 people between the ages of 12 to 64 — young folks on the verge of getting a driver’s licence all the way up to veteran motorists — and found that the biggest challenge to self-driving cars might be that many people aren’t quite ready to turn over the keys to a computer. Yet.

Predictably, the youngest generation surveyed, “Young Gen Z” (12-15 years old), was the most enthusiastic about driverless cars: 67% think that they will see fully autonomous vehicles in their lifetimes. Of the oldest generation, the Baby Boomers (51-64), only 24% feel the same, which isn’t that bad. However, as the survey worked through the younger generations, this attitude improved only marginally. So it bodes against widespread adoption of driverless cars.

Self-driving generations
Gen Z could be the generation that’s most enthusiastic about self-driving cars. KBB

The biggest issue for every generation surveyed except Gen Z is
control. In fact, KBB defined the sweet-spot for self-driving cars not as full autonomy — Level 6 on their scale — but as human-plus-autonomy, or Level 5. If this predicts anything, it’s that steering-wheel suppliers might not have anything to worry about, at least not right away.

The survey also revealed that plenty of people still love to drive. In fatc, 62% of respondents still love to drive and 80% want to have the option of driving their vehicle, even if it has autonomous capability.

But the survey also uncovered an interesting wrinkle: luxury car owners are generally more aware of self-driving technology and more likely than non-luxury owners to be open to it. This is good news for automakers who want to offer autonomous features, because it means that they will be able to put them in bigger-ticket vehicles.

KBB also surveyed attitudes about ride-sharing and autonomy and found that respondents were notably more comfortable with autonomy in this environment than in an ownership framework. This is an early vindication of the strategies of companies such as Uber, which recently rolled out a small self-driving fleet in Pittsburgh, and General Motors, working with Lyft and creating a new business unit — Maven — to explore ride-sharing opportunities.

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