Jason Levine is executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.
Self-driving cars potentially represent the greatest step toward automotive and pedestrian safety since universal installation of the air bag. Yet the American people remain reticent about this leap into the future.
Seventy-eight percent of respondents to an AAA survey said they would not want to ride in a self-driving car. Only 13 percent of those surveyed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology agreed they would be comfortable with vehicle “features that completely relieve the driver of all control for the entire drive.”
Clearly, we are not a nation of Luddites. We Americans adopted the car like no others, won the race to the moon, love our smartphones and smart homes, and are accustomed to seeing self-driving or flying cars in almost every movie set in the future. But to ignore crowdsourced gut feelings around a revolutionary change to a building block of our current societal topography is to fail to meet consumers where they are.
As it turns out, that unsettled feeling in Americans’ stomachs is not actually about the future. It’s about the past.