When you notice them on the road, they really are a sight to behold. Sitting at a stop light, waiting for your turn to proceed, you look over at the driver in the lane next to you and there isn’t any one at the wheel of the car. You cannot help but do a double-take. Select states in the U.S. are currently testing sites for the autonomous car program including Nevada, Arizona and California, and there are plans to have the technology, sticker price and state laws in place to roll out to consumers by 2030.

Americans have been slow to warm up to the idea of surrendering the steering wheel. AAA released a poll this week that stated 78 percent of Americans are afraid to ride in a fully driverless car.

Between Jan. 5th and 8th, 2017, AAA interviewed 1,012 randomly selected adults via phone to gauge attitudes toward driverless cars. According to their responses, the AAA concluded that 78 percent of Americans are afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle, while 19 percent would trust the vehicle. Only 10 percent of those polled said that they would feel safer sharing the road with autonomous cars. This is despite claims that self-driving cars are safer, more efficient, and more convenient than human-driven vehicles.

“A great race toward autonomy is underway, and companies are vying to introduce the first driverless cars to our roadways,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “However, while U.S. drivers are eager to buy vehicles equipped with autonomous technology, they continue to fear a fully self-driving vehicle.”

The interesting aspect of the study is,  if you compare it to current statistics of a Global Road Safety report released at the conclusion of 2016:

·      90% plus of accidents that occur on the road are the result of human error.

·      50 million people are injured annually because of a road traffic accident.

·      1.3 million people die each year of injuries sustained in an auto accident.

So, the positive spin on autonomous vehicles is the belief that if enough people embrace and trust the technology, traffic fatalities can decrease substantially and lives can be saved.

But many factors will need to merge before individuals embrace this technology.

1.    AFFORDABILITY: If manufacturers rolled out consumer’s ability to purchase self-driving cars, the cost would have to decline considerably. The technology involved currently makes each unit price close to $150,000.

2.    EDUCATION: No driver is going to embrace the technology and invest in the purchase of an autonomous car if they are worried about loss of control and accidents. Consumer education and awareness is going to be a key aspect of the marketplace’s push to sell the vehicles.

3.    LEGISLATION AND REGULATION: Laws do not currently exist in many states to regulate the ability of a driver to take their hands off the wheel, and let the car do the driving. Pedestrian rules, licensing, safety standards, liability, etc. all need to be discussed, proposed and passed into law before the highways are filled with autonomous vehicles.

Self-driving cars will eventually be an aspect of the American landscape. If technology proceeds at the current pace, this could roll out in the next 10 to 15 years and become the new normal. But manufacturers will need to do a better job in soothing and creating trust between consumers and the unknowns and fears involved. It will be very hard to surrender the steering wheel and trust in the technology.