A new report from the market research firm Ipsos has found that, globally speaking, the auto markets with the most skeptical consumer bases when it comes to autonomous vehicles are the USA and Canada.
That said, support in the USA and Canada still seems to be fairly high — at least, enough so that firms involved in the sector are likely to find a willing market as they push for adoption of the tech.
One of the most interesting findings of the report is that most of those queried in the US are unsure of what to do about regulation — with around 36% arguing for self-regulation and only 24% for government regulation. The situation in Canada on that count is, interestingly, the inverse — with there being less trust of self-regulation and more of government oversight. Overall, though, support for either option was still considerably higher than support for insurance-company oversight (12% of support in Canada, 15% in USA, and 16% in the 28 countries surveyed).
Also noteworthy is that, altogether, around 1 in 4 of those in the US “would never use” an autonomous vehicle — if they are to be believed (opinions, of course, change over time, especially when it comes to new tech). This contrasts greatly with the situation in China, where support is much greater. Respondents in China were twice as likely to say they “can’t wait” to use AVs as Americans or Canadians.
A press release on the matter provides more: “Ipsos surveyed more than 21,000 adults across 28 countries about acceptance of AVs, which autonomous features are most in demand, potential ownership models and regulation options. … Perhaps the reluctance of Americans to embrace this emerging technology has to do with its strong identity as a car-culture. Nearly 6 in 10 people consider themselves ‘car people,’ and 81% feel that the car they drive reflects their personality, a least to some degree.”
That makes for an interesting line of speculation. In modern culture, most people more or less function as drones, without there being much of anything when it comes to true autonomy for most people — schedules and lives dictated by jobs, external food providers, external services providers, and entertainment. In such a context, “consumer choice” and association is one of the only means available to show choice.
Coupled with the pseudo-individualism of the modern world (never diverge in any real way, but make as much noise as possible about irrelevant decisions of style and identity), it seems likely that many people are going to cling to their car choices/ownership, political “beliefs,” and favorite sports teams until the day they die. That’s often the case even as the broader effects of those “choices” undermine the systems that support life on this planet — as demonstrated by the recent news out of Antarctica. I’ll note, though, that I remain skeptical myself that self-driving vehicles will lower carbon emissions to any notable level.
As a final note, the report also noted that there was a slight political divide when it came to favorable opinions on self-driving cars — with Democrats showing a 59% support level and Republicans a 46% support level. So, don’t be too surprised if the whole thing gets turned into a political sideshow over the coming years, as has already occurred with Tesla and renewable energy to certain degrees.