As Americans Hit the Road for Memorial Day driving their own cars, voters surveyed in four states have serious safety and privacy concerns when it comes to driverless car technology and want Congress to apply the brakes to robot car technology until it is proven safe, according to public opinion poll conducted for Consumer Watchdog released today.
The poll, conducted for the nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group by Public Policy Polling found overall that just 16% of voters in California, Florida, Michigan, and South Dakota say they would ride in a driverless car if it were available, compared to 74% who say they would not. 75% of voters say Congress should apply the brakes to driverless car technology until the technology is proven safe, compared to only 15% who think more driverless cars are needed on the roads.
The four states polled cover the political, demographic, and geographical spectrum, with varying concentrations of cars and auto industry jobs, Consumer Watchdog said. The states are also the home states of Senate leaders from both parties who are pivotal in the ongoing debate about driverless car legislation.
“Congress has been listening to the self-serving claims of the robot car manufactures. Instead, our representatives should be listening to the people, who understand this technology is not ready to deploy and must be carefully regulated to protect safety,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy and Technology Project Director. “The Senate needs to put on the brakes and not hit the accelerator pedal on the sadly inadequate AV START Act.”
Other key findings from the survey include:
- 79% of voters surveyed say they would be either very concerned or somewhat concerned for their safety as a passenger, pedestrian or bicyclist on the road if a driverless car service were operating in their area – including 56% who say they’d be “very concerned” – compared to just 6% who said they would not be concerned at all.
- Voters’ concerns go beyond just their physical safety – 79% of voters also say they’re very concerned or somewhat concerned about the security of data collected by driverless cars – including 56% who say they’re “very concerned”, and just 7% who say they’re not concerned at all.
- 75% of voters say they oppose victims of driverless car crashes being forced to bring their case in a private arbitration hearing, rather than a jury trial. Just 12% support forced arbitration with no right to a jury trial.
- 59% don’t believe driverless cars will be safe enough to consider using during their lifetime, while 30% do.
- 80% of those surveyed believe that government should regulate the driverless car technology rather than allow industry to self-regulate, which is the course the pending federal legislation takes.
- 58% say that the loss of jobs due to driverless car technology should slow its deployment.
The polling in California incorporated the word “robot” in half the sample on some questions to see if using the word influenced the outcome. For example, 335 responders were asked, “If a driverless car were available to you, would you be likely to ride in it?” while 310 were asked, “If a driverless robot car were available to you, would you be likely to ride in it?” There is no significant difference in response. 69% were unwilling to ride in a driverless car; 70% said they wouldn’t ride in a “driverless robot car.”
Public Policy Polling conducted the poll for Consumer Watchdog and surveyed 2,374 registered voters in California, Florida, Michigan, and South Dakota from May 15-16, 2018. The margin of error is +/- 2.0%. The survey was conducted using automated telephone interviews. Aggregate poll results.