ANN ARBOR, Michigan — Despite ongoing advances in automated-vehicle technology, the majority of U.S. motorists remain skeptical about self-driving cars, according to a new study from Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
Their report, based on a survey of 618 U.S drivers, found that 45.8 percent of respondents prefer no self-driving capability at all.
Another 38.7 percent said they'd accept a partially autonomous vehicle, but just 15.5 percent of those surveyed said they'd want a fully self-driving car.
And when it comes to riding as a passenger in a completely self-driving car, 66.6 percent of respondents said they'd be "very or moderately concerned," compared to 50.7 percent in a partially autonomous vehicle. Only 9.7 percent of those surveyed said they wouldn't be at all concerned about riding in a completely self-driving car.
The researchers found that older drivers expressed greater concern for autonomous vehicles than younger survey respondents, with 45.2 percent of those over 60 saying they'd be very concerned about riding in a self-driving car, compared to 26.1 percent of those aged 18-29.
And the report noted that more women expressed concern about ceding total control to an autonomous vehicle than men, 43 percent to 31.3 percent.
For the purposes of the study, the researchers defined a fully self-driving car as one that would control all safety-critical functions, even allowing the vehicle to travel without a passenger if required, while a partially autonomous vehicle was defined as one in which the driver could hand over all safety-critical functions to the vehicle but still take over occasionally.
But even in the study's definition of a completely non-self-driving car, the understanding was that the driver "will be assisted with various advanced technologies."
This is an important distinction, because a number of tech features currently available are sometimes considered "semi-autonomous," and many of those technologies are becoming more common all the time, even on moderately priced vehicles.
For example, the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, 2016 Ford Focus and 2016 Honda Civic are available with Active Lane-Keep Assist, which nudges the steering wheel back if the car begins to drift into an adjacent lane, and Front Collision Detection with automatic braking, which can apply the brakes to help reduce the severity of a crash.
Pointedly, this latest study comes at a time when many major automakers — including Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla and Volvo — are plunging ahead with the development of self-driving technology.
And, as recently reported by Edmunds, a new coalition formed by Google, Ford, Uber, Lyft and Volvo plans to "work with lawmakers, regulators and the public to realize the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles."
Edmunds says: The development of self-driving technology is moving forward steadily, but this study indicates that the majority of drivers aren't yet completely on board.