Meet the Future Buyers of Self-Driving Cars

April 22, 2016, 5:54 PM UTC
Gov. Brown Signs Legislation At Google HQ That Allows Testing Of Autonomous Vehicles
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: A Google self-driving car is displayed at the Google headquarters on September 25, 2012 in Mountain View, California. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed State Senate Bill 1298 that allows driverless cars to operate on public roads for testing purposes. The bill also calls for the Department of Motor Vehicles to adopt regulations that govern licensing, bonding, testing and operation of the driverless vehicles before January 2015. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photograph by Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

If self-driving cars were available for purchase today, the most likely buyers would be young, liberal, and Hispanic, according to a Fortune-Morning Consult poll.

The online national poll of 2,001 registered voters, which was conducted last month by Washington, D.C.-based polling firm Morning Consult, pitched questions aimed at assessing awareness and interest in self-driving cars. The poll asked consumers about how much they had seen, read, or heard about self-driving cars—and if they would ride in or buy one.

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Only 26% of all respondents said they would consider buying a self-driving car, also known as an autonomous vehicle. However, those stats change once broken down by gender, political party, ethnicity, and religion.

For instance, Hispanics are far more willing and interested in owning a car that could drive on its own, according to poll data. About 41% of Hispanic respondents said they would consider buying a self-driving car compared to just 25% of white and 29% of African American respondents.

Along political ideological lines, liberals are twice more likely to buy a self-driving car than conservatives, the poll found. When broken down by political party and gender, male Democrats are the most likely to consider buying a self-driving car, while Republican women were the least interested.

This might seem like a moot point, considering self-driving cars are available for purchase. But they are coming—and fast enough that federal regulators are scrambling to write policy guidance for states, automakers, and tech companies about when and how autonomous vehicles should be allowed on U.S. roads. The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have vowed to complete guidelines by July. A second public meeting to get input on the regulations is scheduled for April 27 at Stanford University.

Automakers and tech companies are in a race to develop self-driving tech that will turn drivers into passengers. Many of these companies, including GM and Google, want to deploy fleets of self-driving cars that people can hail via an app. Others are developing vehicles that can be switched from manual to autonomous mode.

Toyota is taking another route on automated driving. The world’s largest automaker is working on autonomous driving technology that would operate silently in the background, allowing the computer (also described as a “guardian angel”) to step in and take control of the car to avoid hazards or an accident.

Ford tested a self-driving car in total darkness. Watch:

Then there’s startup, whose founder George Hotz told Bloomberg recently that the company’s self-driving retrofit kits would be available for non-autonomous vehicles by the end of the year, whether or not there are regulations in place.

While companies are pushing forward, the general public is still warming up to the idea. The Fortune-Morning Consult poll found 34% of respondents would ride in a self-driving car. Men and young people ages 18 to 29 are more receptive to autonomous vehicles, with 40% and 44% respectively saying they would ride in one.

Hispanics are more open to riding in self-driving cars than any other ethnic group at 44%, followed by African Americans at 39%, and finally white at 33%.

Respondents with higher education degrees and earned more annual income are also more apt to ride in a self-driving car, according to poll data.