In a Strategy Analytics survey, 40% of Americans said they were not at all interested in fully autonomous driving. It's hard to picture those opposing gun control abdicating the freedom of turning their own steering wheel.
You could say that asking consumers about something new -- something they've never personally experienced before -- tends to skew results. That's true. But the Strategy Analytics research reveals one thing: Pitching autonomous cars to consumers won't exactly be a no-brainer for most carmakers.
There's no question that self-driving cars will be a game changer for the handicapped, the elderly, and kids who can't drive. But for average drivers, self-driving cars won't become a must-purchase item for a long time, for various reasons.
Freedom and control
For one thing, there's the folk maxim "Never trust a machine." Many drivers are reluctant to cede control of a car to a computer running software. The more you know about technology, the better you know that there's no such thing as error-free software.
However, there are some people who firmly believe that getting people out of the driver's seat can't help but yield safer roads. Anyone who has been on the road knows that you can't trust your fellow drivers.
Roger Lanctot, associate director at Strategy Analytics, added another dimension to the debate in a recent company blog post. The analyst has brought up the natural human desire for freedom and control.
In his blog, Lanctot compared highway fatalities with deaths resulting from gun violence (homicides and suicides combined). "Both figures hover around 30,000, or about 100/day."
The analogy is brilliant. At a time when so many people resist gun control in the United States in any shape or form, can we really expect those Americans to abdicate the freedom of using their own steering wheel, accelerator, and horn?
In his blog, Lanctot brings up Charlton Heston, five-term president of the National Rifle Association, to make his point. I couldn't help but picture Heston taking the stage at an American Automobile Association convention, holding up a vintage (Model A) steering wheel, and defying the federal government to rip it "from my cold, dead hands."
In a subsequent email exchange, Lanctot told me, "My point is that this touches on the very emotional attachment drivers tend to have with their cars." In his opinion, it will take a lot of disruption in people's emotional and even intellectual attachments before they embrace self-driving cars. As Lanctot pointed out, drivers will inevitably ask: "Are you questioning my driving skills?"
Just as any kid remembers the summer he or she learned to ride a bike and discovered the world beyond the home neighborhood, many drivers won't so easily forget the exhilarating sense of freedom -- not to mention the rite of passage -- of being alone on the open road, handling two tons of steel and 380 horses with nothing more than a steering wheel and a flick of the wrist.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times