Residents in America’s Northwest not ready for driverless cars, finds poll

Most Northwest drivers expect to see driverless cars on the roads in the next decade, but only one in three is very interested in owning one

A selection of badges showing happy and sad faces

A new poll in America’s Northwest has found that, although a majority of drivers (58%) believe that driverless cars will be legally operating on the region's roads within the next decade, more than four in ten motorists are not interested in owning one. 

The poll by PEMCO Insurance found that only one in three drivers in Washington and Oregon are very interested in owning a self-driving car, even if price is not an issue.

I think it’s human nature for drivers to trust their own instincts and reaction times more than a machine’s
— PEMCO Insurance spokesperson Derek Wing

The findings come soon after a report by the Consumer Technology Association, which found that two-thirds of consumers would like to exchange their current car for a self-driving vehicle.

Different age groups appear to have different attitudes to self-driving vehicles, found the insurer, with younger drivers saying they are significantly more interested in owning a driverless car than their older counterparts.

Nearly half of the under-35s surveyed said that they were very or extremely interested in owning a self-driving vehicle (47%), compared with around a quarter of those aged 35 or older (23%).

Younger drivers were also slightly more likely to think driverless cars will arrive on the streets in less than 10 years.

PEMCO spokesperson Derek Wing said: “Though perhaps not as true for the younger crowd, the poll confirmed what might be a familiar feeling for many: it's hard to give up control.”

This desire to remain behind the wheel is understandable, said Wing, given what is at stake in a car crash.

“Even considering today’s latest safety features, I think it’s human nature for drivers to trust their own instincts and reaction times more than a machine’s.”

When it comes to safety, the poll found that a majority of drivers welcome the new safety features that come with many of today’s vehicles – such as back-up cameras, blind-spot detection and brake assist – believing they keep all drivers safer on the roads.

However, while three-quarters of the drivers with newer safety features installed say they rely on them at least a bit, most also believe they could drive just as well without these features.

“We’ll be interested to see how people’s attitudes may change over time as technology continues to evolve and some of these concepts become less futuristic and more contemporary,” said Wing.

The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll was conducted in June 2016 by Seattle’s FBK Research.