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Expanded UMTRI study finds self-driving vehicles generate enthusiasm, concerns worldwide; interest highest in China and India

Despite safety concerns about equipment failure, a majority of drivers on three continents have high expectations for autonomous vehicles. Building on an earlier study on public opinion regarding self-driving vehicles in the US, Great Britain and Australia (earlier post), Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) expanded their survey to include more than 1,700 respondents in India (527), China (610) and Japan (585). The report includes recently released findings from the same survey in the US, the UK, and Australia.

They found that about 87% of respondents in China and 84% in India have positive views regarding autonomous and self-driving vehicles, compared to 62% in Australia, 56% in the US, 52% in the UK and 43% in Japan. Half of the Japanese respondents were neutral, while the US registered the highest percentage of negative views (16%) among the six countries.

The generalized findings (applicable to each of the six countries) are:

  • The majority of respondents had previously heard of autonomous or self-driving vehicles, had a positive initial opinion of the technology (or neutral in the case of Japan), and had high expectations about the benefits of the technology.

  • The majority of respondents also expressed high levels of concern about riding in self- driving vehicles, safety issues related to equipment or system failure, and self-driving vehicles not performing as well as human drivers.

  • Respondents also expressed high levels of concern about vehicles without driver controls; self driving vehicles moving while unoccupied; and self-driving commercial vehicles, buses, and taxis.

  • The majority of respondents expressed a desire to have this technology in their vehicles. However, a majority was also unwilling to pay extra for the technology (except for respondents in China and India).

In comparison to the respondents in the US, the UK, and Australia, respondents in China and India had more positive initial opinions of self-driving vehicles, expressed greater interest in having such technology on their personal vehicles, and were willing to pay the most for it. Japanese respondents, on the other hand, generally had more neutral initial opinions about self-driving technology and were willing to pay the least for it.

According to the study, more than 80% of respondents in China, India and Japan believe that self-driving vehicles would reduce both the number and severity of crashes, compared to roughly 70% in the US, UK and Australia.

The Chinese and Indians are also more optimistic that autonomous technology would lead to less traffic congestion (72% of respondents in both countries agree) and shorter travel times (74% in India, 68% in China). On the other hand, 56% of Japanese respondents and less than 50% in the US, UK, and Australia believe it would ease congestion. Likewise, less than 50% of respondents in those countries agree that it would shorten travel times.

Although more respondents in China and India expressed favorable views regarding the benefits of self-driving cars, the two countries differ when it comes to concerns about riding in a completely autonomous vehicle. About 79% of Indians said they would be very or moderately concerned, compared to 49% of Chinese. Among the other countries, the results were 67% for the US, 57% for both Australia and theUK, and 52% for Japan.

Chinese and Indian respondents were more concerned about equipment failures, system and vehicle security (from hackers); data privacy (location and destination tracking); and interacting with pedestrians and bicycles than those in the study’s other countries. Nonetheless, much higher percentages of Chinese (96%) and Indians (95%) are at least slightly interested in owning a self-driving vehicle, compared to those in Japan (77%), Australia (68%), the US (66%) and the UK (63%).

The countries most likely and least likely to expect the following benefits from autonomous driving was (with the percentage saying “very/somewhat likely” in parentheses):

  • Fewer crashes: China (85.7%), US (67.8%)
  • Reduced severity of crashes: China (85.1%), US (68.9%)
  • Improved emergency response to crashes: China (88.8%), UK (60.2%)
  • Less traffic congestion: India (72.3%), UK (47.3%)
  • Shorter travel time: China (78.3%), UK (39.3%)
  • Lower vehicle emissions: India (82.8%), Japan (57.2%)
  • Better fuel economy: India (85.9%), Japan (62.9%)
  • Lower insurance rates: China (78.5%), US (53.5%)

Respondents in the six countries surveyed, while expressing high levels of concern about riding in vehicles equipped with this technology, mostly feel positive about self-driving vehicles, have optimistic expectations of the benefits and generally desire self-driving vehicle technology.

—Brandon Schoettle


  • Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak (2014) “Public opinion about self-driving vehicles in China, India, Japan, the US, the UK, and Australia,” (UMTRI-2014-30)



If they introduce them properly, SD cars will be a great boon.
So I wouldn't start off in Naples (Italy), or Delhi, but I would risk it on most well marked motorways.

The problem is how to give back control at the end of the motorway, or off ramp. What do you do if the person has fallen asleep (and can't be woken up). [ You would need a "snooze zone" near the off ramps where the car could pull in until the person woke up (or paramedics were called) ]

There would be nothing better than being able to sleep while being driven, reading or watching TV would be good, but sleep would be the ultimate (well almost ultimate ....).

Then, you could tackle suburban driving, where you have more complex intersections, but reasonably light traffic.

Finally, you would have urban centres where the system might just refuse to go (certainly at rush hour).

You could have a gps map of the country with time and place locks on all zones. Thus, you could use motorways all the time, and suburban zones all the time (after a software update ?) and city zones from 8pm to 6am, and certain "black zones" never.

There are certain times when a SD car would be very useful - coming home for the pub with a few units on board, or if you were very tired, or if you had become old and could no longer drive. Also, cars would change, and would be come more ambulance like, so that you could lie flat in a bed while the car drove through the night. Imageine a car which can drive all night from Hamburg to Munich on autobahns (at 100kph (i.e. quite slow for economy reasons)). Then, you get up, go to a "breakfast" motel (where you get breakfast and a shower, but no sleep), and then do a day's work.


Eventually, autonomous driving vehicles will safely take you from A to Z while you are resting, working or entertaining your friends or girlfriend/boyfriend.

It is very possible that most (driver caused) incidents/accidents will be reduced by 80% or more and so will be property damamges, injuries and casualties.

Of course, current road cowboys and drivers who refused to mature, will resist the most.

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