My foot was frozen in place and my reflexes were ready to react instantaneously.
I remember the first time I switched on adaptive cruise control. My foot hovered a few centimeters away from the brake. After I tried the system a few times, I saw that it worked and I trusted the vehicle’s systems to transport me safely. The anxiety was gone.
Using this system now has become second nature – like activating a turn signal or turning on windshield wipers. U.S. drivers will have the same experience when it comes to self-driving vehicles.
I was surprised by a recent survey headline: Three out of four U.S. drivers are afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle. This figure is unchanged from a year ago.
This technology is becoming more accessible, less expensive to build and is growing by the year. Right now, very few U.S. drivers have had the chance to actually ride in a self-driving car. And no one in the general public has had the chance to ride in a level five (completely without a human operator) self-driving vehicle.
My view is that convenience and proven safety will quickly overcome our resistance and our fear. Most importantly, the data will show that riding in a self-driving car will ultimately be safer than trusting a human driver.
Humans get distracted, are prone to fatigue, drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol and are subject to emotional responses behind the wheel. Self-driving cars will be efficient, responsive and tested for many thousands of hours, in addition to having their systems continuously updated and refined based on real-world experiences and traffic data.
U.S. drivers will quickly realize the benefits of self-driving cars once they start using them on a mass scale. I would challenge that U.S. drivers will have the same reaction to self-driving cars that I had with adoptive cruise control. At first, they will be cautious and ready to act at a moment’s notice. After they see how the vehicle responds appropriately, they will relax and the fear is gone. There will be trust.
Survey data like this will drastically change as drivers become more comfortable, more used to giving up control and they will find that they are ultimately safer. Riders can be distracted without worry.
I remember when TV shows only came on at a certain time and if you missed it, you were out of luck. That concept is alien to kids and teens today as they can summon an episode of their favorite show instantaneously at a moment’s notice.
The same will go for future users of self-driving cars.
You’ll be able to tell people younger than you about your first, nerve-wracking experience in a self-driving car and they’ll look at you with confusion. Self-driving cars will be just an everyday reality for them – the norm.
Are you ready?