US Consumers Think Driverless Tech Widespread in 50 Years

Although use of autonomous vehicles is expected to be widespread 50 years from now, US consumers are still highly wary of the technology.

While current acceptance rates of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology are low, 63% of Americans expect to be using self-driving cars half a century from now assuming they are still alive, according to an Intel study. These were among the results of the “Next 50” study of 1,100 US consumers, conducted by market research firm PSB.

The study also found American consumers expect the technology to be able to drive cross country, be controlled through a smartphone app and access their smart home technology. When asked what they expect to do in an AV in the next 50 years, 58% of survey respondents said they would consume entertainment, followed by 57% who would socialize while 56% would be working. A third of respondents said they would host meetings, while 26% said they would groom themselves and 14% said they’d use the time to exercise.

Despite overall enthusiasm for self-driving technology, 43% said they don’t feel safe around AVs. Consumers’ enthusiasm for autonomous vehicles has declined in the past two years, even though they want semi-autonomous safety features, according to an August Cox Automotive Mobility Study.

“We must bridge the gap between acceptance of today’s automated driving assist features and full autonomy,” Intel’s senior principal engineer and vice-president of AV standards at Mobileye, Jack Weast, noted in the report. “Today, passengers are asked to blindly trust a manufacturer’s ‘black box’ safety approach. What is needed is for the industry and policymakers to rally around a transparent safety model that builds trust between humans and machines.”

The company’s 2017 Passenger Economy report claimed that self-driving vehicles have the potential to save 585,000 lives from 2035 to 2045. Prepared by analyst firm Strategy Analytics, the study predicts an explosive economic trajectory growing from $800Bn in 2035 to $7Trn by 2050. The study also projected reductions in public safety costs related to traffic accidents could amount to more than $234Bn over the passenger economy era from 2035-2045.

Meanwhile, Intel’s campaign for its discrete approach to security, called Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS), is already on the road in tests the company’s Mobileye business is conducting in Israel, and will soon launch in the US. The company also recently announced a partnership with the state of Arizona to launch the Institute for Advanced Mobility (IAM), which aims to solve the liability, regulatory and safety implications of automated vehicles and will work to develop standards and best practices for the industry to follow.

Intel is the first private organization to officially join the IAM, which also includes the state’s Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety and the Arizona Commerce Authority, which will oversee the IAM. When fully built out, the IAM will consist of facilities designed for research and testing scenarios, with a simulation lab as well as technology-neutral physical infrastructure offering multiple route configurations, intersections, signage and traffic signals.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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