Post 5: Primary Research

To get some primary research on my topic, I conducted a survey. The survey consisted of eight questions. I wanted to find out some basic demographic information about respondents, and compare it with their trust of self-driving cars. I wanted the survey to be open to any demographic, with any person’s opinion being useful data. I was interested in finding out something about public perception of self-driving cars, and I definitely got results I wasn’t expecting.

The background information I decided to collect was age, level of education, amount of driving done in the past week, general location (urban, suburban, or rural), and if they had been in an automotive accident before. These were to see if there was any sort of trend on opinion of self driving cars across these categories. However, as far as age and location go, only 3 out of 26 respondents were over the age of 24, and only 2 lived in a rural area, making any sort of extrapolation in these aspects statistically questionable. Slightly more interesting was that of the 6 people who said they felt self-driving cars would be less safe, only 2 were drivers. This means that drivers were seemingly warmer to self-driving cars than non-drivers. Similarly, 4 out of the same six had been in an automotive accident before, perhaps having an effect on their opinions. Looking at the demographics was where I expected to get the most useful, interesting data, but it turned out that another aspect of the results took over.

By far the most fascinating thing I noticed from the results was a seeming 180 of opinion by some respondents in the last three questions. About three-quarters of respondents both said they thought that self-driving cars would be better/safer than themselves, and that they would feel either a little safer or much more safe if a large portion of other cars on the road were self-driving. Despite this, a majority (54%) of people said that if they were given a fully autonomous car without a steering wheel, they would not trust it enough to use it. This is seriously interesting to me, that people would say in no uncertain terms that they think a self-driving car would be better than them, but would still not trust one enough to ride in it. There are multiple explanations I can come up with to reconcile this. It’s possible that the first questions were very abstract in people’s minds, and so people’s risk assessment was more detached and objective, but the final question making things concrete made people consider their own personal safety as a factor in a way the previous questions didn’t. It’s also possible that the wording of the question to say “without a steering wheel” is what concerned people, as even though they had just said that self-driving cars would likely be better than themselves, people are willing to take much greater risks if they feel they have some sort of control, and removing the steering wheel feels like removing a safety net. Either way, it was insightful to see a thought process I hadn’t even really considered before.

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