PITTSBURGH — Millennials are getting creative when it comes to the potential of self-driving cars, with some seeing them as places to hold great parties, a survey finds.
The Carnegie Mellon University survey said that Millennials and Baby Boomers are "miles apart" in their expectations for self-driving cars. A key question posed by researchers is what do you do with all that free time once the car takes over driving duties?
Baby Boomers often envision self-driving vehicles as sedate libraries, with lots of time for reading. But younger Millennials dream about "cars designed to host great mobile parties," researchers said.
Younger buyers also see the "car designed as an office" and as a place to eat lunch and work.
To collect their data, researchers from the university's College of Engineering polled 1,000 drivers, ages 18-70, to learn what consumers are looking for in self-driving cars and how they plan to use that technology as it becomes available.
According to the results, those in the 18-24 age group ranked highest in their desire to eat lunch (70.9 percent) and work (44.9 percent) in their vehicles. They also mentioned that they'd like to watch movies and put on makeup while their cars do the driving.
The older drivers stated that reading is the activity they'd most enjoy in an autonomous vehicle, with the number rising to 51 percent among the oldest Boomers, those in the 66-70 age group. The older respondents also said they'd appreciate the increased safety provided by self-driving cars, especially at night, in heavy traffic, on unfamiliar roads or on the highway.
Donna Sturgess, executive-in-residence at Carnegie Mellon University, told Edmunds: "Unlike Boomers, Millennials give new meaning to the notion of 'on the go.' Not only do they want to eat on the go but they want to work on the go as well. Millennials don't envision driving in the future as 'down time.' They see their time as more fluid."
Sturgess isn't particularly surprised that the Baby Boom generation intends to read in their autonomous vehicles: "Reading seems to be a popular 'down time' activity for older adults no matter what environment they happen to be in. The Boomers in our survey indicated they will stick to their current behaviors when they are riding in self-driving cars instead of driving them."
Luckily, only 5.6 percent of respondents said they'd like to throw a party as their cars handle the driving. But 10.9 percent want to take photos or selfies on the road, and 17.7 percent plan to play video games.
Across all age groups, those surveyed said the features they'd most like to see in autonomous vehicles include the ability to adjust for weather conditions, self-parking capability, driver fatigue warnings, a television or computer in the dashboard, visual display of safety features, virtual valet (the ability of a car to pick up the driver) and voice commands for the visually impaired.
Survey participants were also asked which of 10 companies they believe will have "the first self-driving car where your hands are free."
Toyota was the leading answer, with 18.3 percent of the total vote, followed by Google (18 percent), Mercedes-Benz (14.3 percent), Tesla (11.3 percent), General Motors (9.9 percent), BMW (9.4 percent), Ford (8 percent), Honda (7.2 percent), Microsoft (2.6 percent) and Amazon (1 percent).
Edmunds says: In the future, driving with a lampshade on your head may be socially acceptable.