Survey: Drivers open to partially self-driving cars

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

A “sizable amount” of drivers are open to driverless-car technology as long as they retain some control, according to a small study from the University of Michigan.

Researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of the UM Transportation Research Institute surveyed 505 licensed drivers and found about 41 percent said they prefer a partially self-driving vehicle with only occasional control by the driver. That compares to 44 percent preferring to retain full control, while nearly 16 percent would opt for a completely self-driving vehicle.

“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 in a release. “However, less attention has been paid to considering the actual level of automation, if any, that drivers desire in their vehicle.”

The study found men and those under 45 are more likely to favor partially or completely self-driving cars.

Responses are similar to what many auto manufacturers and suppliers have been saying for years about always “keeping the driver in the loop.”

About two-thirds of those surveyed said they are at least moderately concerned about riding in completely self-driving vehicles; that percentage drops to less than half for partially self-driving cars.

And nearly all respondents (96 percent) would want to have a steering wheel and gas and brake pedals available in completely self-driving vehicles.

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.

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