27% of Americans Already Support Limits on Humans Driving Cars, Prefer Self-Driving

Rinspeed/Rex Features/AP
Rinspeed/Rex Features/AP

In a national poll, more than 1 in 4 Americans said they would support limits on humans driving cars in the near future, given the fact that robotic self-driving cars could be safer.

Google says that self-driving cars will likely be commercialized in about 5 years, and their wide-spread use could overtake human-driven cars soon after. From the available evidence, they are much much safer: self-driving cars have been involved in only a few minor accidents, which is why they are estimated to save the lives of around 21,700 people a year and save the country billions of dollars.

Hence, this is why the world’s happiest mad scientist and Tesla founder Elon Musk thinks that the government may eventually outlaw humans driving cars altogether or, at least, place severe restrictions on them.

At this stage, 27 percent is a much higher poll number than I was expecting. It was only 17 years ago that 27 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana — and now a majority do (roughly the exact same trend for gay marriage).

Typically, Americans are averse to any sort of restrictions, which is why phrasing a survey question as something that the government “forbids” normally ends up in biasing the results towards heavy opposition.

At the moment, as expected, most respondents still support the right of Americans to drive their own car. One survey respondent wrote:

[I] support the movement toward self driving vehicles however i personally enjoy the freedom …based on this view i feel that autonomy should be optional when driving and not mandated.

Still, these numbers are quite high. I expect they could reach a majority in favor of restricting human drivers in less than a generation after self-driving cars are widely available.

You can read the full results and methods of the Ferenstein Wire poll, conducted with the help of Google Surveys, here.

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*The Ferenstein Wire is a syndicated news service. For inquiries, contact information for the editor is here.


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