On Self-Driving Vehicles in the U.S.

Photo by  Mikhail Vasilyev
  • Last week, results from a Brookings Institute survey of 2,066 adults in the United States (July 8-10, 2018) asked if they would ride in a self-driving car included the following results:  46% very unlikely to ride, 15% somewhat unlikely, 9% somewhat likely, 12% very likely, and 18% don’t know or gave no answer.
  • Notably, there were differences by gender and age: men (28%) are more likely than women (17%) to ride in a self-driving car. Young people aged 18 to 34 (27%) are most likely to ride in a self-driving car, compared to those 55 or over (16%).
  • Separately, a study commissioned by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS) said “The public is overwhelmingly concerned about sharing the road with driverless vehicles … This apprehension is widespread across demographics including gender, generations, region, education and political affiliation.” Survey results: 69% are concerned about sharing the road with driverless vehicles, 30% not concerned, 1% don’t know.
  • Cathy Chase, President of AHAS said “Right now, the United States Senate is preparing to consider the Nation’s first driverless car legislation known as the AV START Act (S. 1885) ...  I am disappointed that we must oppose this bill unless critically-needed – and basic - safeguards are added. Numerous public opinion polls show people are fearful of AVs, and 70 organizations representing public health, consumers, safety, bicyclists, pedestrians, people with disabilities, engineers, researchers, environmentalists, law enforcement and first responders are all urging the Senate to prioritize safety and make improvements to this bill.”


  • Given that 1) over 90% of car crashes are caused by human error (in 2016 the top three causes of traffic fatalities were distracted driving, drunk driving, and speeding), and 2) an aging population may increase the number of accidents, there is a need for transportation alternatives.
  • Recent self-driving vehicle accidents likely contribute to the low ratings in these surveys, but increased reliability will drive broad based adoption.
  • While the AV START Act has increased concerns about deregulation, other policy issues to address include privacy, liability, and road etiquette (for example, how will autonomous trucking platoons change traffic patterns).
Paul Dravis