Self-driving cars will soon be on the market but are people in the United States ready for them? The latest Deloitte survey set out to answer this question.

Are Americans ready for the self-driving car?

Up to 15% of all cars sold in 2030 could be completely autonomous, claims a report by management consulting firm McKinsey, a view shared by automotive expert Matt Johnson. However, this prospect is not generally finding favour with US Americans, if we are to believe the results of a recent survey carried out by professional services provider Deloitte, which indicates that 74% of US citizens do not believe self-driving cars are safe. Nevertheless, 59% of those polled felt that travelling in this type of vehicle would be a positive experience and 55% of respondents said that fully self-driving cars would free up time.

Opinions among the US population appear to be strongly divided depending on whether people live in cities or in rural areas, except on one point – safety. Apart from this aspect, city-dwellers demonstrate much greater enthusiasm for self-driving vehicles, with 62% saying they trust fully self-driving cars, versus just 39% of their country cousins.

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Opinions differ equally sharply from generation to generation. Unsurprisingly, younger people seem far keener to try out this new technology while the baby-boomers and prior generations express greater reluctance. Only 31% of these older people say they would trust a fully autonomous car in which they were a passenger, compared with 68% of the Millennial generation. Similarly, 76% of the Millennials surveyed reckoned that travelling in self-driving cars would be a positive experience, a proportion which is 17 percentage points above the national average. In addition, three out of four thought that this innovation would free up time for them. Nevertheless 72% of young people – only two percentage points below the overall national average – express the view that the technology is not quite ready.

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This third bar chart shows the general trend. According to the survey, 57% of Millennials are attracted by the idea of a fully self-driving car while only 24% of baby-boomers and older people are of the same opinion. However, rather more of these approve of partly autonomous cars. The conclusions seem to be a) the more technology progresses towards the fully autonomous vehicle, the less reassured US citizens feel about the idea, and b) Millennials are most attracted to this technological advance.

So the self-driving car may face a major challenge in convincing and attracting people. However, it is probably a safe bet that by the time autonomous vehicles have become widespread, the whole idea will have become perfectly natural to future generations.

By Sophia Qadiri
Managing Editor & Journalist