Revealed: How many motorists would prefer driverless cars

ANN ARBOR—A sizable amount of motorists would have no problem in a driverless car as long as they could retain some control, according to a University of Michigan report.

Researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of the U-M Transportation Research Institute examined drivers’ preferences for vehicle automation.

They surveyed 505 licensed drivers and found about 44 percent would prefer to retain full control while driving. Nearly 16 percent would rather ride in a completely self-driving vehicle, while almost 41 percent said they would prefer a partially self-driving vehicle with only occasional control by the driver.

Male drivers and drivers under 45 were more likely to favor partially or completely self-driving vehicles.

“Self-driving vehicles are often discussed in regard to their potential safety, energy-consumption and environmental benefits, or the existing technical challenges that must be overcome for their successful implementation,” Schoettle said. “However, less attention has been paid to considering the actual level of automation, if any, that drivers desire in their vehicle.”

While about two-thirds of those surveyed said they were at least moderately concerned about riding in completely self-driving vehicles, that percentage dropped to less than half for partially self-driving cars.

According to the U-M report, nearly all respondents (96 percent) would want to have a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals available in completely self-driving vehicles.

As for partially self-driving vehicles, 59 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer a combination of three warning modes (sound, visual, vibration) to notify drivers when to take control of the vehicle.

Schoettle and Sivak defined the three levels of automation as:

  • Completely self-driving: The vehicle will control all safety-critical functions, even allowing the vehicle to travel without a passenger if required.
  • Partially self-driving: The driver will be able to hand over control of all safety-critical functions to the vehicle; only occasional control by the driver will be required.
  • No self-driving: The driver will always be in complete control of all safety functions, but the driver will be assisted with various advanced technologies.