Tesla Motors has a bold plan designed to revolutionize the way we drive. Every vehicle the company produces will be equipped with software and hardware necessary to make it autonomous.
All Tesla vehicles also will be equipped with 20 cameras and sensors, a radar system, and a computer with a processing speed 40 times faster than the one currently used.
The autonomous software and hardware differs from Tesla’s Autopilot system, which the company calls a driver-assist program.
“It’ll take us some time into the future to complete validation of the software and get through required regulatory approval,” CEO Elon Musk told reporters, “but the important thing is the foundation is laid for cars to be fully autonomous at a safety level we believe to be at least twice that of a person, maybe better.”
Musk believes the company’s cars will have the ability to drive from Los Angeles to New York City without the aid of a driver by 2018.
American Driving Attitudes
But will Americans want to make a cross-country trip with an autonomous vehicle, or even a trip around the block?
A recent survey from ReportLinker found 83% of Americans drive on a daily basis, and 61% of them have a positive view of autonomous vehicles.
When considering their next vehicle, 82% of Americans are open to purchasing a partially to fully automated car.
However, acceptance comes with concerns. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said they would not feel safe in a driverless car. The top reason cited was road safety, at 36%, followed by high cost, 18%, vehicle safety, 10%, cybersecurity, 9%, and legal liabilities, 9%.
What can automobile manufacturers like Tesla do to overcome drivers’ fears? There are three options:
First, automakers can change perceptions through marketing. An effective marketing campaign would explain the benefits of a self-driving car including reduced emissions and increased mobility for the disabled.
Second, automated features can be gradually introduce into existing vehicles. Earlier this year, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reached a voluntary agreement with 20 automakers, representing 99.6% of all vehicles sold in the country. The agreement allows the automakers to incorporate autonomous breaking systems in all models by 2022.
As more automakers develop autonomous features, the cost of sensors drops – from, $75,000 10 years ago to $5,000 today with lower-cost models in development.
Third, commuters could be introduced to automated car through ride-sharing services. In August, Uber announced it was investing in autonomous-vehicle research with the goal of having a driverless Uber fleet by 2030. The move will make vehicle ownership obsolete, Uber says.
Google also has plans for a fleet of autonomous vehicles. The vehicles, which will be a standalone business under the Alphabet corporate umbrella, will start operation in small areas like corporate parks. A taxi to rival Uber also is in the works.
Uber and Google may be overestimating demand for their services. ReportLinker’s survey discovered 58% of Americans would be reluctant to summon a driverless taxi with 42% of them citing road safety as the reason.
Even if automakers are successful in their attempts to make autonomous vehicles mainstream, they will face one more challenge. Some people just won’t want to give up control: 48% of Americans say they are passionate about driving.
Young Millennials Most Open to Change
When it comes to driving and self-driving vehicle acceptance, there is a clear generation gap between younger Millennials, those between the ages of 18 and 24, and the rest of the U.S. population.
Among Millennials 67% drive on a daily basis compared to their parents – 91% of 45-54 year olds drive daily – and 11% don’t drive at all.
When asked if they had a interest in using driverless taxis or buses, 57% younger Millennials said they would be willing to use them. Comparatively, 66% of 35-44 year old had no interest.
Finally, Millennials may be the first group to adopt autonomous vehicles. ReportLinker found 54% of those who said they were open to using self-driving taxis also were open to purchasing an autonomous vehicle. Of those who were unwilling to use the taxis, 41% said they were willing to become a self driving car owner.
The future is certainly exciting when it comes to autonomous vehicles and how they will change both roadways and drivers’ habits.