Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Drivers want ADAS, but not so sure about autonomous cars: study

In May, market researcher Penn Schoen Berland canvassed 2,506 American drivers about their driving habits. The findings, presented last week at a Ford press conference, are sobering:

  • 76% of respondents admitted to eating or to drinking non-alcoholic drinks while behind the wheel
  • 53% admitted to talking on a handheld phone
  • 33% admitted to fiddling with their mobile gadgets
  • 55% admitted to driving beyond the speed limit
  • 37% admitted to driving when too tired

And here’s the kicker: 99% of respondents claimed they were safe drivers.

I know, it's a major disconnect. But here's what I find interesting: most respondents also expressed interest in driver assistance systems. In other words, even self-proclaimed safe drivers tacitly admitted they could use help now and then. For instance:

  • 8 out of 10 respondents expressed interest in technologies that would help them stay in their lane
  • 9 out of 10 expressed interest in technologies that could detect an impending collision and slow the car down

Respondents also expressed interest in systems that could detect a car in their blind-spot, provide voice-activated phone dialing, or park the car automatically. That said, only 39% said they’d feel comfortable riding an autonomous car.

My take? That number will grow significantly once more people drive cars equipped with adaptive cruise control, automatic parallel park, and other driver-assist systems. The more people become accustomed to such systems, the more they'll accept a car that does most of the driving for them.

For media coverage of this study, visit Forbes, Scientific American, and the Wall Street Journal.

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