Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are a topic of much conversation lately, with some saying they’re right around the corner, and others warning that the technology for completely driverless cars is far from ready for prime time.
Several car manufacturers and technology companies are currently developing autonomous vehicles.
Since this is all still fairly new, there’s a lot we don’t know about how much interest and concern people have about AVs.
In our 2015 Travel Survey, we asked two sets of questions to get a sense of people’s level of interest in and concern about AVs.
The first set offered seven possible uses for AVs and asked the respondent to indicate a level of interest from “very interested” to “not at all interested”:
- Taking a taxi ride in an autonomous car with no driver present
- Taking a taxi ride in an autonomous car with a back-up driver present
- Commuting alone using an autonomous vehicle
- Commuting with others (carpool) using a shared autonomous vehicle
- Owning an autonomous car
- Participating in an autonomous car-share system for daily travel
- Riding in an autonomous car for a short trip to get to a vehicle (e.g., from airport terminal to parking lot)
The second set presented five potential issues related to AVs and respondents were asked to indicate their level on concern from “very” to “not at all” about:
- Equipment and system safety
- Legal liability for drivers or owners
- System and vehicle security
- Capability to react to the environment (other cars, bicyclists, pedestrians, etc.)
- Performance in poor weather or other unexpected conditions
For this post, we’re looking at how responses varied by age. Young people are generally more likely to adapt to new technology – does this hold true for AVs?
In general, those 18-34 showed a greater interest in all possible uses of AV than the other groups, with level of interest falling off with greater age.
Around 40% of the youngest group expressed some interest and about half of those indicated they were very interested. Those 65 and older were the least interested, with the “very interested” at between 3 and 5%. They showed the most interest (at around 10%) in riding in an AV for a short trip to get another vehicle.
The two statements regarding commuting showed a different pattern. The 25 to 34 year-olds showed the most willingness to use AV for commuting, whether alone or with others, much more so than any other group. Surprisingly, the group with the second highest level of interest was the 65-74 year-olds, with one-fifth of those saying they were very interested in commuting alone in an AV.
Generally, there was less interest across the board for commuting in an AV with others.
Levels of concern for AV are high in all age groups, generally between 40-50% saying they are “very concerned.” Here, there is less of a trend by age: the older one is, the more concern there is, but the differences are not that great, and those 75 years and older seem to be less concerned than others, at least in two areas: liability and safety.
The youngest age group, and in particular the 18-24 year-olds, have the least concern about AV in every area. They also had lower levels of interest compared to several other age groups. This might be because having just entered the work force, this is not something they think about, or there might be some other dynamic going on that future surveys can uncover. But it’s also good to keep in mind that there were far fewer responses in this group than the other groups, except for those 65 and older.
Autonomous vehicles represent an emerging technology that will have more and more impact on the transportation system and our driving behavior in years to come. Attitudes both positive and negative will undoubtedly change as people see vehicles becoming more autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles start to enter the market. Because of this, we will continue to follow up on these questions in our 2017 survey and beyond.