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Published on September 4th, 2017 | by The Beam


Intel Study Shows How To Help People Accept Self-Driving Vehicles

September 4th, 2017 by  

When it comes to giving control over to automation, there are quite a few things that we as humans have been happy to let go of. For example, a lot of factory work, farming, and other more menial tasks are now taken care of by robotic automation. But there is one area that the vast majority of people feel uncomfortable relinquishing control of, and that’s driving. According to one study by the AAA, 75% of Americans are afraid to travel in a self-driving car. Given that autonomous cars are an imminent part of our future, getting people to accept that fact and be willing to use them is a challenge to overcome.

Intel recently conducted a study designed to find out if people who had anxiety about taking a ride in a self-driving car would change their minds after gaining direct experience of one. They took 10 different people on a ride around a closed track in an automated car. The participants sat in the back of the vehicle in a way that mimicked taking a ride in a regular taxi. The reason for this is that one of the first applications of automated cars will be taxi services (robotaxis), so it makes sense to start with this type of situation.

Each person was interviewed and asked how they felt about autonomous vehicles before, during, and after the experience. At the end of the trip, every single one of the participants said they would be willing to take a ride in a self-driving car in the future. This implies that having direct experience of an automated vehicle in action is an ideal way to influence people and encourage them to be more accepting of the new technology.

Chart via blitzzcar

An overwhelmingly positive response

While the study only used a sample size of 10, the fact that every single person was willing to use a self-driving car afterwards shows how effective the method is. There were some other interesting discoveries made in the study too. For example, when passengers could see the steering wheel moving by itself, this actually increased their anxiety — they would rather not see a steering wheel at all.

During the process, researchers also highlighted some potential issues and problems that an automated taxi service will face in the future. If the passenger is someone who has difficulty getting in and out of a vehicle, due to a particular disability or simply age, then a self-driving car will not suffice. In this case, another option will need to be made available.

The era of self-driving vehicles is just around the corner, with companies like Lyft and Uber working towards offering the service, so public acceptance of the new transport method is of paramount importance. The benefits of automated cars are manifold, helping with congestion, improving road safety, and more, but these will not be realised if people are not willing to use them. While this study from Intel is small and tentative, it does demonstrate the effectiveness of first-hand experience and shows that people can get over the anxiety they may hold.

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About the Author

The Beam Magazine is a quarterly print publication that takes a modern perspective on the energy transition. From Berlin we report about the people, companies and organizations that shape our sustainable energy future around the world. The team is headed by journalist Anne-Sophie Garrigou and designer Dimitris Gkikas. The Beam works with a network of experts and contributors to cover topics from technology to art, from policy to sustainability, from VCs to cleantech start ups. Our language is energy transition and that's spoken everywhere. The Beam is already being distributed in most countries in Europe, but also in Niger, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Japan, Chile and the United States. And this is just the beginning. So stay tuned for future development and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Medium.

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