Demo Program Finds High Consumer Enthusiasm for Self-Driving Vehicles

Tracey E. Schelmetic

It’s apparently one of those technologies you have to use to love. While only a small fraction of Americans reports having ridden in an autonomous vehicle, those who have report high levels of enthusiasm for them. This is the conclusion by SAE International, an organization that says it provides a neutral forum for partners to advance mobility solutions. Further public opinion was gathered during a series of events called SAE Demo Days, which convened industry partners for free public self-driving car demonstrations between November 2017 and April 2019, in Detroit, Los Angeles, Tampa, and Babcock Ranch, Florida.

The goal of the event was to help people gain awareness and hands-on understanding of self-driving cars by letting them experience the technology. SAE believes that public acceptance is vital to the future of self-driving cars.

“Through SAE Demo Days, we are engaging the public directly and inviting them to take a ride,” said Mark Chung, Chief Marketing Officer at SAE International, in a statement. “The demos foster informed decision-making while allowing SAE to capture insights from those who have taken a ride. The SAE Demo Days self-driving car experience spurred enthusiasm among nearly all of the riders and the experience overall is viewed by participants as comparable to or better than a human-driven experience.”

The resulting Demo Days survey polled riders after they had experienced a ride in a self-driving car. More than 2,000 rides were given at the SAE-sponsored events, allowing the public to experience self-driving technology first-hand and build informed decisions.

The SAE Demo Days survey was a collaboration between SAE and its partners. Survey questions were added and removed for each event based upon participant feedback, partner ideas and value of collected responses. Questions were broken into three sections: registration, pre-ride and post-ride. Overall, 76 percent of respondents indicated that a self-driving car experience is similar or superior to a human-driven experience, and 37 percent thought the greatest benefit of self-driving cars is the elimination or reduction of deaths due to accidents.

Drivers don’t want to surrender all control to a self-driving vehicle, however: 92 percent indicated they want to share control with a self-driving vehicle.