Why some won’t go driverless

Technology and Business

Alice Salter

Alice Salter

10-05-2021

       

In this article, we focus on the people who are opposed to autonomous vehicles (AVs) and ask:

  • Why are some so averse to the concept of driverless vehicles?
  • Is our approach to self-driving tech defined by age?
  • Can anything convince this group to change their minds?

We’re passionate about the future of driverless technology here at 2025AD so, naturally, we often discuss the benefits that AVs will bring alongside the progress that various manufacturers are making right now. We talk about cities which are taking great leaps forward with autonomous tech and exciting new ways to make sure driverless vehicles are safe. But we mustn’t ignore the fact that, for many, driverless is an unwanted development.

 

To better understand how people feel about autonomous vehicles right now, 2025AD conducted a piece of research which drilled down into not just whether respondents wanted to see driverless transport become a reality, but their concerns and hopes for the tech too.

 

After carefully compiling a list of queries, we sent a detailed questionnaire out via online media and received over 1,000 responses from self-selected individuals across Germany. Though there has been a real push for the advancement of AVs in Germany, it is also known as a nation of motorists and that was certainly reflected in our results. According to our survey, 59% simply don’t want to own, or even rent, a driverless vehicle any time soon.

 

Opposition isn’t new

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Such resistance to self-driving tech has been a feature of the landscape since the first developments were made some time ago, but it’s interesting that so many are still opposed to the technology. In one study, 61% confessed they would rather ride in a human-driven vehicle than an AV and a poll in California found 74% feel the same. In addition, 59% of our respondents said they wouldn’t pay anything extra for driverless capabilities on a new car, suggesting such features are unwanted, or at the very least are not considered to be a priority.

 

Older drivers are more resistant to AVs

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Among the group who are not in favour of autonomous vehicles, our study showed 55% were aged 55 or over. This suggests that there is an age divide when it comes to accepting driverless. Another study has revealed that those over 65 are 17% more likely to trust a human driver over an AV than those under 24.

 

This seems to mirror generational trust in, and acceptance of, new technologies more generally and suggests that younger generations will be the early adopters of self-driving vehicles. But it is also worth noting that even younger generations are more comfortable with active assist features, rather than vehicles which are capable of driving with no human input.

 

Losing the joy of driving

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Perhaps one of the most interesting details to come out of our research was the fact that 43% of this AV-resistant audience see the biggest disadvantage of autonomous vehicles as losing the joy of driving. In contrast, just 15% of those eager to go driverless considered this a disadvantage.

 

For experienced drivers, it’s important to consider AVs as not just a new technology, but the marker of a significant shift in the culture of car consumption. Over the years, the automotive industry has worked hard to make our vehicles to be seen as personal expressions of freedom, choice and control. Altering that understanding, particularly if drivers are expected to shift to a driverless rented model of transport, will require an extensive programme of both research and action. Right now, that’s not in place.

 

Can this audience to be convinced?

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To gain full acceptance of the tech, this audience would need to be convinced of AVs’ efficiency, safety and benefits. According to our survey, the best way to do that is through time in the market (23%) and test reports (17%).

 

We should note here that a significant 47% responded ‘none of the above’, suggesting nothing could change their minds, but at the same time, 100% of this audience claimed they would pay extra for features like automated parking or automatic speed limit application when buying a new vehicle. Of course, such features don’t make an AV, but such open acceptance of automated capabilities suggests that time in the market, and increasing familiarity with driverless, may be enough to prompt significant changes in attitude.

 

Our acceptance of self-driving varies according to all sorts of variables. Our research suggests that age is a significant factor, but some of us are just not open to the change. It will be an enormous shift. But, at least for those who are unsure of the tech, it will be made in increments with growing acceptance of driver assistance systems paving the way for fully fledged AVs. 

 

Some hesitation is to be expected, especially while questions and concerns around safety remain. But we have to consider the cultural and social status of the car too – driving is an important activity and even self-expression for so many, and owning a particular vehicle is important to even more. AVs may strip that away. Could this be the hurdle which is hardest for manufacturers to overcome?

 

 

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. Do you think there’s any way to change the mind of someone who is opposed to driverless? Is age the biggest factor in determining whether we support AVs or not?

 

 

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