Study: Drivers in India, China receptive to self-driving cars

November 3, 2014

A majority of drivers have great expectations — along with some safety concerns — for self-driving cars, reports a new University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute public opinion study. The study expanded on an earlier study targeting drivers in the U.S., Great Britain and Australia, adding 1,700 respondents throughout India, Japan and China.

Beijing highway

Excitement is brewing in Asian markets around autonomous vehicles. From LanguageTeaching.

Researchers discovered that approximately 87% of China respondents and 84% India respondents have “positive views” on self-driving/autonomous vehicles. Meanwhile, 62% of Australian respondents, 56% of American respondents, 52% of U.K. respondents, and 43% of Japanese respondents felt positively about such vehicles. Americans responded the most negatively of all six countries, with 16% negative views; while Japan reported 50% neutral responses.

A staggering 80-plus percent of those surveyed in China, India and Japan “believe that self-driving vehicles would reduce both the number and severity of crashes.” Compare that to around 70% of those surveyed in the U.K, the U.S., and Australia. Indian and Chinese respondents were also more hopeful that self-driving technology will help reduce traffic congestion and encourage shorter travel times.

However, while Indian and Chinese respondents did seemingly agree on self-driving cars’ value, their views did differ regarding riding in “completely autonomous” vehicles: approximately 79% of Indians reported being “very or moderately concerned,” while 49% of Chinese felt that way. The other countries’ results were as follows: 67% for the U.S., 57% for both Australia and the U.K., and 52% for Japan.

Another interesting takeaway from the study, reports Scientific American: “Some notable differences existed between countries – with respondents in China and India being a bit more positive about the technology’s promise, their desire to have access to it, and their willingness to pay for it.” Safety concerns also differed among the countries surveyed. Indian and Chinese 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.”

Interest in owning self-driving cars also varied a bit among the participants. Ninety-six percent of Chinese respondents and 95% of Indian respondents were “at least slightly interested in owning a self-driving vehicle.” Compare that to Japan (77%), Australia (68%), the U.S. (66%) and the U.K. (63%). The earlier study, which focused on opinions in U.S., Great Britain and Australia, found that about 57% of those respondents had “positive opinions about automated technology in vehicles (compared to about 14% with negative views) and a majority have high expectations about its benefits.”

“Recent advances in autonomous vehicle technology have helped bring self-driving vehicles to the forefront of public interest,” Brandon Schoettle of the Institute explained. “Self-driving vehicles are commonly envisioned to be the ultimate, full embodiment of connected-vehicle technology, an area that is currently the focus of several large research projects and government support.”

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, founded in 1965, is committed to reducing “negative societal impacts associated with transportation around the world” and produces research that “leads to safer vehicles, safer occupants, and safer roads.” Learn more about the Institute and its latest investigations into such issues as big data, senior mobility, fuel and energy, and young drivers, online here.

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