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American Drivers Still Have Plenty of Concerns About Self-Driving Cars

September 28, 2016, 10:55 PM UTC
Tesla Introduces Self-Driving Features With Software Upgrade
A member of the media test drives a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S car equipped with Autopilot in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015.
Photograph by Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

When it comes to driving, many Americans still have no plans to go full-on “no-hands.”

That’s according to a new Kelley Blue Book survey of American drivers that finds that there’s still plenty of conflicted feelings surrounding one of the automotive and tech industry’s most ardent developmental ambitions. Among the top takeaways:

  • 64% of respondents said they preferred to be in “full control” of their vehicle at all times.
  • 51% said they prioritized personal control when it comes to self-driving cars while 49% prioritize collective safety.
  • The vast majority of respondents, 80%, want to have the option to take manual control over a driverless car.

But the report also finds opportunities for companies like Tesla (TSLA), Google (GOOG), Uber, Lyft, and traditional automakers that are pouring significant resources into the technology.

While drivers aren’t quite comfortable with Level 5 automation (the highest level possible, which involves zero human input), they are open to lower levels of driver-free cars that allow them to take control if needed. In fact, the survey found that nearly 60% of respondents would buy a car with the third level of automation—which doesn’t include full autonomy—or higher if given options across all levels by 2020. The most popular choice would be for Level 4 technology, which has the capacity for full autonomy but still allows for manual user input.

“The industry is talking a lot about self-driving vehicles these days, with multiple automakers and ride share companies throwing their hats in the competition to build and release the first fully autonomous vehicle to consumers,” Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said in a statement about the study. “Much is still unknown about fully autonomous vehicles, including how they would react in emergency situations, but the lower-level options are gaining steam, with many Americans interested in purchasing vehicles with Level 2 semi-autonomous features.”

The bottom line, however, is that car makers “will need to address hesitant drivers in order to be successful,” he added.