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Don't Fear Autonomous Cars: Report Envisions Self-driving Adoption Over Decades

AFP Relaxnews

First published: September 23, 2016, 2:23 PM IST | Updated: September 23, 2016
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Don't Fear Autonomous Cars: Report Envisions Self-driving Adoption Over Decades
Volvo is aiming to launch its first self-driving production car in 2020. (Image: Volvo)

Self-driving cars have featured prominently in this week's news as the US government has officially laid down its first guidelines regarding autonomous car testing and development -- something that will be seen as a turning point in automotive history in years to come. However, as of today, according to a new Altman Vilandrie & Company study, almost two-thirds of US consumers (64%) aren't ready to trust self-driving cars due to the potential dangers they pose.

"Despite evidence that AVs will likely reduce road fatalities, many drivers are wary of giving up control of the wheel to a software program," said Altman Vilandrie & Company Director Soumen Ganguly, who co-directed the survey of 2500 US adults.

Advances seem to be coming every month. Self-driving taxis are on the road in Singapore. Uber is testing an automated ride-hailing service in the US. But even though Volvo, BMW and Nissan are all committed to delivering self-driving production cars by 2020, these car-fearing consumers are going to have plenty of time -- 25 years -- to overcome their anxieties.

"There is considerable speculation in 2016 about autonomous driving, the full impacts of which will not become manifest until the 2040s," said futurologist Dr Frank Shaw who on Wednesday published the details of a report co-authored with Kia.

The study is the first to date that tries to understand the bigger picture -- what the car, the road, the infrastructure, and the regulations of the future will really be like. It will be 2041 before 50% of cars sold yearly in the US and Europe are self-driving. And even then, different cars on the road will feature different levels of autonomy.

It could also take until 2014 to update road infrastructure so that vehicles can communicate with each other and with systems such as traffic lights. Or so that autonomous and semi-autonomous have dedicated lanes.

"Technology in the motoring industry is moving at an incredibly fast pace, and this report is a fascinating look at how the world around our cars will need to adapt in order to keep up," said Paul Philpott, Kia Motors UK CEO.

As for 2016, only 25% of drivers are ready for self-driving cars. "We've seen through the adoption of other technologies that there is initial resistance to change -- people can't always recognise the benefits of something they haven't experienced, and this is certainly true with something as culturally important to Americans as driving," said Altman Vilandrie & Company Director Moe Kelley.

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