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CarGurus polls drivers about self-driving cars, has surprising results

Are American drivers ready to accept autonomous cars and everything that comes along with them?

We hear a lot about autonomous cars and how they're the future. Automotive manufacturers are spending countless millions on their development and testing. This leaves us wondering what the average driver thinks about the advent of self-driving cars, and apparently it left CarGurus wondering the same thing, so they asked.

CarGurus is an online car shopping and research tool, and since its inception in 2006, it has published some exciting surveys and studies. For the self-driving car opinion study, CarGurus researchers contacted 1,873 vehicle owners in the US, ages 18 to 65 with a household income of over $25,000. What it learned is pretty interesting.

Despite its edge in self-driving technology, only five percent of CarGurus' survey respondents trusted Waymo to develop autonomous cars.

Mike Cutler/MHCPhotography

First, let's get the significant number out of the way: 79 percent of those surveyed said they were not excited about autonomous cars. Fully 84 percent said they wouldn't own an autonomous vehicle in the next five years, though this is less surprising to us, given where the technology is right now.

Owners of luxury brands are more likely to be excited about self-driving cars; this makes sense given that there are already a handful of luxury vehicles with some limited self-driving capabilities, and it's typically this end of the automotive spectrum where we see this kind of tech adopted first. Interestingly, it's BMW owners that are most excited, with around 27 percent of those surveyed looking forward to an autonomous car in the next 10 years.

Geographically, more West Coast drivers are open to the idea of autonomous cars than East Coast drivers. Drivers from the middle of America are by far the least interested in self-driving cars, which is interesting given the number of straight, dull and unfun roads you find there. We'd think that they'd be positively pumped on the idea of letting the car take over in those cases.

Luxury car owners were more inclined to adopt self-driving cars when they became available. BMW owners in particular would buy self-driving cars from the brand.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

The survey's findings on public perception of companies developing self-driving tech are also fascinating. When asked which companies are most trusted to create autonomous cars, 27 percent of respondents reported that no companies could be trusted. Interestingly, Tesla was nearly three times more likely to be trusted than Toyota and almost five times more than Waymo, one of the current leaders in developing self-driving tech.

We'd love to see this survey repeated with an even larger sample size, and see it done again in three to five years to see how perception shifts. At Roadshow, we've got more experience with self-driving vehicles than most, and while we don't expect to see Level 4 or Level 5 cars on our roads in a year or two, consider us planted firmly in the excited camp.