Self-driving cars: What to do with all that spare time?


BLOOMINGTON, IL – It appears that semi-autonomous cars may not always be carrying a driver who’s alert and ready to take over control of the vehicle if necessary, according to a new survey.

State Farm conducted the survey to examine drivers’ knowledge, attitudes, and potential behaviors regarding autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. This survey was the second iteration of a study first conducted in September 2013.

Autonomous cars can drive themselves without any human involvement. Semi-autonomous cars include automated features but may still require human operators in some circumstances.

The survey asked drivers how much more, or less, likely they would be to engage in certain behaviors when a semi-autonomous vehicle is driving itself compared to when they are driving the vehicle. Knowing that there may be circumstances where the driver may need to take over control a semi-autonomous car, survey respondents said they would more likely be:

• Eating – 48 percent
• Reading texts – 45 percent
• Sending texts – 43 percent
• Taking pictures – 36 percent
• Accessing the internet – 36 percent
• Tending to children – 32 percent
• Recording videos – 26 percent
• Watching movies – 21 percent
• Reading a book – 19 percent

The survey findings were released during a presentation yesterday at the annual meeting of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

“Drivers need to be aware that there may be unexpected and critical situations when they will need to be in full control of their semi-autonomous car,” said presenter Chris Mullen, Director of Technology Research at State Farm. “This survey shows that people want to do things other than drive during their trips; there is a need for education so that consumers understand the capabilities and potential limitations of their automated systems, and what’s required of the driver.”

Additional findings: more awareness and more confidence in technology.
Compared to three years ago, considerably more drivers have heard of self-driving vehicles. And though they did not show an increased interest in purchasing a fully automated car, compared to three years ago consumers are more confident in the ability of self-driving cars to navigate safely on their own.

Although wide use of autonomous vehicles is years away, cars with some automated features are already available, and most survey respondents are knowledgeable about those features.

Consumers most want automated backup assistance and drowsy driving detection.

Respondents were provided with a description of technologies that included backup assistance, parking assistance, adaptive cruise control, adaptive headlights, lane departure assistance, automated braking and drowsy driver detection. While they were at least somewhat familiar with them all, the features they were most interested in were backup assistance and drowsy driving detection.

They see that vehicle-to-vehicle technology can improve safety.
Vehicle-to-vehicle technology allows the car to communicate with other nearby vehicles. Roughly half of respondents think vehicle-to-vehicle technology would be useful in increasing safety and would be interested in having a car with this technology.