Another Study on Why we don’t like Driverless Cars

By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of seeing stories on why we don’t “like” driverless cars. How many studies has it been already?  The latest study comes from an advocacy group called Partner for Automated Vehicle Education or PAVE. Nearly half of the 1,200 adults surveyed right before the COVID-19 crisis indicated that they would never get in a taxi or rideshare vehicle driven by AI.

PAVE Executive Director Tara Andringa said in a Transport Topics post that, “Americans have a lack of trust and a lack of knowledge about AVs.” I don’t think that’s true. We know exactly what’s going on here—automakers have somehow built themselves out of a car that anyone can afford and now want to force us to use a fleet vehicle as a rideshare, carshare or lease.  They make more money, and for some reason, they think this is what consumers want. But we don’t!

That’s why survey after survey says we don’t, and companies and groups just want to guilt us into thinking that we are not future-thinking. Education is not going to help here because trust is earned, not automatic.

PAVE, founded in 2019, is a coalition of autonomous vehicle developers plus road safety groups with the express goal of informing the public about self-driving cars. The group includes Waymo, Cruise, and Argo, as well as the National Safety Council, Mothers against Drunk Driving and the National Federation of the Blind.

Andringa added, “Companies are putting huge investment into the development of AVs, but public opinion polls like this one show great skepticism, concern, and distrust.”

Yeah. Just because big tech creates something does not mean we want that something or even need it. There are some good reasons people don’t trust driverless and connected cars.

  1. If automakers and big tech cannot ensure safe vehicles we currently drive, we certainly have difficulty trusting a vehicle where we have no control whatsoever.
  2. Even before COVID-19, ridesharing was tolerable because of someone driving and making relatively sure that the car was cleaned as needed. With driverless rideshare, there is not a guarantee that cleanliness would ever be part of the equation.
  3. Who would be liable if the driverless car crashes? Does that mean if we would take driverless rideshare, would we need additional liability insurance just for that?
  4. Cybersecurity is a big issue—when cars are connected with lots of moving parts, hackers could easily find an entry point to make mischief (making all driverless cars stop dead in an area) or harm (cause accidents intentionally).
  5. Owner/rider privacy – this is not done well currently with the many privacy breaches of companies that claim the highest cybersecurity.
  6. Driving—many of us still like to drive and are considered safe with no accidents nor traffic tickets.

I am not a Luddite by any means, but having driverless cars forced down our throats and bullying cities into building infrastructure for connectivity seems misplaced, especially now with the current economic crisis.

Automakers, though, don’t really care what consumers want. They only see dollar signs on the money they can make in aftermarket connectivity with driverless car entertainment and other services. But do we need our vehicles to do any more than safely transporting us and our goods and service safely from one place to another?

Instead, automakers should work diligently on making cars (and their parts) as safe as possible. Consumers need to feel that the current car they own and drive daily will not be hacked, need to be taken into the dealer due to a recall, and that infrastructure for streets and highways is adequately funded for the basics such as fixing potholes. When that’s done, we might be interested in trying something new.

Here are ten other stories from the Auto Tech Watch section of the NMA’s Driving Newsfeed.

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One Response to “Another Study on Why we don’t like Driverless Cars”

  1. David Holzman says:

    It is funny (in both the humorous and the ironic sense) that predictions about driverless cars were so premature. I agree strongly with this article, and besides wanting to drive my own, I like a car that doesn’t use computer click throughs to operate the heater or the radio, and that weighs less than 3000 lbs.

    Fortunately, my ’08 Civic (stick shift) looks like it has at least as many years of life left as it’s already lived. It works fine for me–fun to drive, reliable, economical.