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Would you go to work in a self-driving car?

Rarely more than a few days go by without seeing an article, TV show, blog or Facebook post about self-driving cars. It seems clear that self-driving (autonomous) vehicles are coming. But how soon, and how smoothly this will happen, depends on who you ask. Would you go to work in a self-driving car?

A snap poll

The market research company, Roy Morgan, recently conducted a snap poll via SMS of nearly 1,000 adult Australians. This poll asked: if you had the option, would you travel in a driverless car?

The answer was YES for:

  • 51% of men
  • 41% of women
  • 83% of 18-24 year olds
  • 58% of 25-34 year olds
  • 49% of NSW residents
  • 48% of capital city residents
  • 51% of AB demographics.

The answer was NO for:

  • 49% of men
  • 59% of women
  • 48% of 35-49 year olds
  • 62% of 50-64 year olds
  • 66% of Tasmanians
  • 58% of country residents
  • 61% of E demographics.

These results reveal, among other things, that willingness to travel in a self-driving car is higher in youthful, educated, affluent areas. This is the same demographic that creates other types of disruptive businesses, such as ride-sharing Uber or map-building Here.

Safety first

Certainly there will be a period when self-driving cars are operating alongside traditional cars. How this will work efficiently and safely is a huge challenge for governments. Canberra recently released national guidelines for on-road trials of self-driving vehicles by motor companies and technology suppliers.

According to Renault-Nissan Alliance chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn, 99% of the technology is already there for self-driving vehicles. But the remaining 1% is by far the hardest. After all, a machine, can only respond in the way it is programmed and it is challenging to think of absolutely every possible scenario that might occur on the roads.

Humans are far more adaptable to surprises than machines.

Who will use them?

There are three big industries that are particularly interested in making self-driving vehicles work:

1. Traditional manufacturers want to add “driverless” features to existing vehicles to encourage private vehicle ownership and driving enjoyment
2. Technology companies like Google and Uber want corporate ownership of fleets of robo-taxis, to be rented using phone apps, ie, “mobility as a service”
3. Public transport owners want to lower costs eg, driverless elevated rail or electric buses.

While all three will push for self-driving vehicles, in the end it will be up to the “driving” public to support or reject these bold visions of the future.

Would you go to work in a self-driving car? Tell us on Facebook.

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