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Gallop: Americans Not Sold on Self-Driving Cars' Benefits

by Nathan Eddy
Americans continue to take a dim view of autonomous vehicles, with three in four saying they would still use human-operated vehicles even if driverless cars were common.

This was one of the results of an April survey by Gallup exploring Americans' driving habits and their attitudes toward cars -- both human-operated and driverless.

The survey results highlighted the divide between rural and urban America -- nearly a quarter of those living in cities and suburbs said they would own a driverless car.

That percentage was more than double the 10% of respondents living in small towns and rural areas.

Despite the full-throated endorsement of AV testing from more than a dozen states across the country -- most recently Ohio, Connecticut and Rhode Island -- the public is taking a more reserved approach.

The Gallup poll, which surveyed 1,500 adults aged 18 and older in all 50 US states, found only 9% of Americans surveyed saying they would use the technology immediately once it is certified by government auto-safety regulators.

The survey found 38% would take a wait-and-see approach, while more than half -- 52% -- of respondents said they would never want to use a driverless car.

Wealthier Americans also seemed more eager to embrace AV technology -- 57% of survey respondents earning $90,000-plus more likely than those with household incomes under $90,000 (45%) -- to say they would either wait a while to use self-driving cars or use them immediately.

Along gender lines, the survey found men were more likely than women to say they would use a driverless car at some point.

The survey also found college graduates were more likely to use self-driving vehicles than did survey respondents without college degrees.

The results indicated the American love affair with the automobile may have something to do with the general reluctance to embrace AV technology: Gallup's poll found more than three quarters of respondents said they personally enjoy driving "a great deal" or "a moderate amount."

However, more than a third of drivers -- 36% -- who say they do not enjoy driving much or at all were three times as likely as those who enjoy driving a great deal -- 11% -- to say they would own a driverless car.

Whether behind the wheel or letting the car's computer take control, one finding of the survey was particularly clear -- Americans spend a lot of time in their automobiles.

A whopping 86% of respondents said they own or lease some kind of vehicle and 83% report that they personally drive at least most days of the week, compared with only 12% of respondents who said they use public transportation at least weekly.

While the results don't indicate an exceptionally welcoming embrace of AV technology, a January survey by AAA revealed 63% of US drivers felt afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, representing a significant drop from 78% in early 2017.

That survey also revealed just 13% of US drivers would feel safer sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle, while nearly half -- 46% -- said they would actually feel less safe.

Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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