Self-driving cars are poised to revolutionize transportation – especially if they’re available on demand. But will people embrace the technology?

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Schoettle: “People are still a little bit lukewarm about the idea.”

That’s Brandon Schoettle of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. He says drivers are wary of giving up control, but self-driving cars have a lot to offer.

Schoettle: “The vehicle’s only going to try to get you where you need to go safely and follow the rules. So you’ve eliminated aggressive driving, generally probably high-speed driving. If this vehicle can do some planning, it can make its journey generally more efficient.”

Brandon Schoettle
Brandon Schoettle

Despite these benefits, surveys indicate people would prefer partially autonomous vehicles that give control back to the driver when conditions are poor.

But Schoettle says the moment of hand-off creates room for error, so completely self-driving cars are expected to be safer. He hopes consumers will give them a chance once the technology is market-ready.

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Schoettle: “People often refer to things like the PC or the cell phone and say the masses generally didn’t want them before they came out. It may be the same type of thing with self-driving vehicles, where as soon as they’re there, people want to have them, but in the abstract, it’s a little difficult to imagine.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
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More Resources
Driverless vehicles: Fewer cars, more miles
How will connected and autonomous vehicles affect automotive safety?
A preliminary analysis of real-world crashes involving self-driving vehicles

Bud Ward was editor of Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as assistant director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission...