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From: Jared Hamilton
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Alex Schoeneberger

Alex Schoeneberger Product Manager

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High Percentage of Consumers Interested in Self-Driven Cars

In a recent KBB.com Quick Poll, we asked consumers if they would ever consider purchasing a self-driving vehicle.  While 53 percent replied “no, never,” the remaining 47 percent were either ready today or were waiting for the technology to mature. 

Would you ever consider purchasing a self-driving vehicleChalk me into the “no, never” category because as long as I can avoid serious congestion, I enjoy driving.  However, a large percentage of consumers are interested in a potentially hands-off driving experience.  A more interesting question is:  Will they ever get one?

The handful of self-driving cars on the road today all have human operators at the wheel and pedals, ready to take over in the event that human correction becomes necessary, but in the first 300,000 miles of Google's small self-driving car feelt, not a single accident occurred.  Still, as self-driving cars become more prevalent, accidents are bound to happen, which raises an important question:  Who is liable – the human “driver” or the manufacturer?  It seems unlikely manufacturers would put cars on the road they could be held liable for anything beyond today’s standards of safety, so I expect the brunt of liability will still fall on the human driver.  This means that the human driver may not be able to completely tune out from driving to focus on other tasks while he or she is supposed to be paying attention to what their vehicle is doing. 

Here are some other questions that surround this technology:

  • How will this technology impact retail sales at the dealer level in the short and long term?
  • How will insurance agencies handle these vehicles?   Will premiums eventually be lower for them than human-driven vehicles? 
  • How does the car keep the human driver engaged enough to take over in an emergency situation since it’s human nature to tune out from processes that we are not wholly invested in?
  • If we gradually move to only having self-driving cars on the road, will human drivers eventually lose so much of their driving abilities and instincts taught through months or years of practice today that it would actually be worse for the human driver to take over in an emergency?
  • Will regular human-driven vehicles eventually be legislated out of existence?

 

What Questions Do You Want to Ask Consumers?

We frequently run Quick Polls on KBB.com.  Is there a question you want consumers to answer?  Ask it below in the comments and we will evaluate it for a future Quick Poll.

BRUCE HARTZ
How famous would a 13 year old hacker be who could claim he just caused the world biggest traffic accident !!
Alex Schoeneberger
Pretty famous, Bruce. That's a scary thought!
Jeremy Alicandri
Hi Alex, Below are some resources that may answer some of your questions (thanks to Cliff Banks for sharing them). I'm certain today's consumer doesn't fully understand the implications of the self-driving car, but keep in mind some stats: "Google’s claims for the car, as described by Sebastian Thrun, its lead developer, are: 1.We can reduce traffic accidents by 90%. 2.We can reduce wasted commute time and energy by 90%. 3.We can reduce the number of cars by 90%." Now run that poll again with the above stats, and you may get a different result. Links: Fasten Your Seatbelts: Google's Driverless Car Is Worth Trillions (Part 1) http://www.forbes.com/sites/chunkamui/2013/01/22/fasten-your-seatbelts-googles-driverless-car-is-worth-trillions/ *This is a 7-part series by a Forbes contributor. Google Poses Serious Competitive Threat to Auto Industry http://wardsauto.com/blog/google-poses-serious-competitive-threat-auto-industry *This is an article which reviews some of the research by analysts over the potential impact. Doom & Gloom? Self-Driving Cars and Dealership Valuations… http://www.drivingsales.com/blogs/jeremy/2013/03/05/doom--gloom-selfdriving-cars-dealership-valuations *This is my opinion piece on dealership valuations.
Alex Schoeneberger
Hi Jeremy - interesting stuff! Running the poll again with Google's stats included in the question would definitely sway opinion. I'll see if we have the space in the Quick Poll question section to feature them as part of the question. The only point Thrun made that I contest is the reduction of cars by 90%. I can see potential for reduction, especially in major cities, but I think it will be a long time before we see anything approaching 90%, if ever. There are a lot of errands, especially when you're talking about family vehicles, that occur on the way to and from work, and I see that and the added commute time factoring into many people avoiding ride sharing during peak vehicle usage hours. We may see a societal shift away from the 8 to 5 office job that many of us have, but until that occurs wholesale, typical working hours will have a heavy influence over where people are going to go and when. While peak travel times have opportunities for optimization, I do wonder how open people will be to that optimization if it inconveniences them.
Jeremy Alicandri
Hi Alex, The article states those are Google's stats - not my own. I can't predict the future. However, I believe it's safe to assume that car count will decrease once this technology fully matures. But when will this all happen? I recently e-mailed Glenn Mercer(NADA Facilities Consultant) about this issue and he summed it up quite well - autonomous cars will make tremendous progress by 2020, but we won't see a 100% autonomous car for quite some time. There are too many cultural/legal issues, and too many cars currently in service, for a paradigm shift to occur within the next ten years. However, in another 20 years, it may be a different story. Jeremy

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