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Autonomous cars: Bring ‘em on, drivers say in survey

Brian Anderson

Results of a new survey from Insurance.com, a car insurance comparison-shopping website, find most Americans are comfortable with the idea of cars that can drive themselves.

More than three-quarters of 2,000 licensed drivers surveyed said they would be very likely to buy or at least consider buying a car with autonomous capabilities. When the possibility of much cheaper car insurance as a result of improved safety was introduced, consideration rose to 86%.

“People are aware that they already drive cars controlled partly by computers,” said Insurance.com Managing Editor Des Toups. “Now they see features like collision avoidance on new models and hear about Google cars hitting the roads in a couple of years. An autonomous car is not science fiction anymore.”

Only 24.5% said they would never consider an autonomous car – and even that figure dropped to 13.7% if they could get cheaper car insurance.

Nearly a third of respondents — 31.7% — said they would not continue to drive once an autonomous car was available instead.

“Spend time in traffic anywhere and it’s clear many people would rather be doing something else,” Toups said.

Yet the trust in technology is not solid, the survey found. Seventy-six percent of respondents said they would not trust a driverless car to take their children to school, and 61% said they believe a computer is incapable of the same decision-making behind the wheel that a human is.

Given a choice between hitting a pedestrian and hitting another vehicle head-on, for example, 79% of drivers said they would want their autonomous car programmed to hit the other vehicle.

“We still don’t know how autonomous cars will communicate, who’ll be liable for failures, or how they’ll mix with old-fashioned cars,” Toups said. “But we’re already well down this road.”

Drivers agree. Seventy-three percent said they don’t think the cars of model year 2040 will operate in ways familiar to the drivers of 2014.

For more information, visit www.insurance.com.



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