While autonomous cars and self-driving technology aren't ready to roll in the near future, such technology is bound to become widespread in the decades to come. Yet despite intrigue in the technology and advances, there remains one hurdle that could prove difficult to clear: human acceptance.
A new study from German luxury brand Audi (specifically its &Audi Initiative) painted two distinct portraits of individuals around the world. The company surveyed and studied 21,000 respondents globally from nine countries. Citizens from China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Germany, the UK, France, Japan and the US each provided responses.
The study broke findings out into three overall categories: the emotional landscape, the Human Readiness Index (HRI) and several user typology templates. The most important of these is the second point, the HRI.
The HRI spans age groups, gender, living environment, income, education and the distance a respondent drives each day. By and large, younger generations hold the idea of autonomous driving in a more positive light. Even across each of the nine countries, those belonging to Generation Z (under the age of 24) showed a "high readiness" for self-driving technology, and 73% said they were curious about the technology. Millennials came in second, though far less ready as Gen Z, while Baby Boomers displayed the least readiness. Overall, almost half of those surveyed still viewed autonomous vehicles with optimism, however at 49%.
Internationally, 82% surveyed said they were interested in self-driving technology, but each country painted a very different picture. Those in China and South Korea are incredibly enthusiastic and interested with 98% and 94%, but on the other end of the spectrum, Japan and the US are far from as enthusiastic. Just 74% and 72% of Japanese and US respondents, respectively, said they were interested. The generational attitudes toward autonomous cars was present in each country, however.
In general, Asia (aside from Japan) views self-driving cars as a Holy Grail of sorts, while western countries are far more skeptical. At a minimum, they're indifferent.
Breaking down the concerns of those that aren't thrilled with autonomous cars, Audi found plenty valid concerns. The vast majority (70%) are concerned with giving up control, per the international figures. How the car assesses situations independently from a human also concerned respondents with 65% noting the potential issue. Lack of a legal framework, data security and lack of driving fun also scored as reasons for the lack of enthusiasm over self-driving vehicles.
Despite the coverage that crashes involving self-driving cars receive, it's done little to sway opinions, according to the study. In total, 61% of those who've seen coverage of crashes involving autonomous cars said it didn't change their attitude for better or for worse.
Where do we go from here? Audi lays out a well-positioned plan. Autonomous technology is, clearly, not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Different countries, those hailing from rural or urban areas, and people with varying levels of income all expect different things from a world with "mobility for all." The goal moving forward will be to create an environment that not only educates the public, but overall, provides a way to guarantee safety and the benefits companies promise.