In a new report, Would Self-Driving Vehicles Increase Occupant Productivity?, University of Michigan researchers found that self-driving cars will not be productive as they are touted to be. For about 62 percent of Americans, autonomous vehicles are not likely to result in an improvement in productivity. There is also a safety problem because car safety systems are designed for driving positions.
Previously U-M researchers reported that self-driving cars would make more trips and increase traffic.
According to their data, nearly 36 percent of Americans say they would be so apprehensive that they would only watch the road, another 23 percent say they would not ride in such vehicles and 3 percent would frequently experience some level of motion sickness.
Among those who would take advantage of the extra time, about 11 percent would read, 10 percent would text or talk with family and friends, 7 percent would sleep, 6 percent would watch movies or TV, 5 percent would work and 2 percent would play games. A separate study found many people would eat which wouldn’t help those who get motion sickness.
Sivak and Schoettle say the performance of current restraint systems for nontraditional positions and postures being considered for occupants of self-driving vehicles (e.g., facing backward or sideways or lying down) and the potential of untethered objects (e.g., laptops) becoming projectiles are cause for additional concern.
They also note that the average vehicle trip is short (about 19 minutes)—a rather short duration for sustained productive activity or invigoration sleep.
Consequently, the hoped-for increased productivity in self-driving vehicles would
materialize only if the following are achieved:
- An increased confidence of occupants in self-driving
vehicles, which would allow them to be more interested in performing productive tasks
while riding in such vehicles.
- Addressing the inherent motion-sickness problem.
- Solving occupant-protection issues related to nontraditional seating positions and postures, and untethered objects becoming projectiles during crashes (or potentially being placed between the occupants and their airbags).