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%)