While self-driving cars may seem like some far-off, futuristic technology, they are edging closer to reality.
Not only are several mainstream car manufacturers working on either semi-autonomous or fully autonomous vehicles, but people are also warming to the notion of owning an automobile that can drive itself.
A recent survey found that more than 75 percent of Americans said they'd consider buying a self-driving car. The survey was conducted by Insurance.com, the car insurance comparison-shopping website, which polled 2,000 licensed drivers, half men and half women, in June.
When respondents were asked if cheaper insurance would prompt them to buy a driverless car, 86 percent of people said yes. Only 24.5 percent of people surveyed said they'd never consider buying a self-driving car.
"People are aware that they already drive cars controlled partly by computers," Insurance.com managing editor Des Toups said in a statement. "Now they see features like collision avoidance on new models and hear about Google cars hitting the roads in a couple of years. An autonomous car is not science fiction anymore."
Google released its latest driverless car prototype in May. The two-seater comes without a steering wheel and relies on built-in sensors and a software system to safely maneuver around obstacles. Google expects its cars to be ready for public use between 2017 and 2020. Nissan, Ford, Toyota, Volvo, and other manufacturers are also working on various semi-autonomous and autonomous prototypes.
In May, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said the testing of autonomous cars could begin in California in September of this year. Furthermore, the department is also developing rules for the public's use of autonomous cars, which is expected to be ready by January 1, 2015.
While Americans appear to be giving self-driving cars the thumbs-up, they still don't fully trust the technology, said Insurance.com. Seventy-six percent of people surveyed said they wouldn't trust a driverless car to take their children to school, and 61 percent said they don't believe computers have the same decision-making capabilities as humans behind the wheel.
"We still don't know how autonomous cars will communicate, who'll be liable for failures, or how they'll mix with old-fashioned cars," Toups said. "But we're already well down this road."