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To Drive, or Not to Drive: The Youth Perspective on Self-Driving Cars
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To Drive, or Not to Drive: The Youth Perspective on Self-Driving Cars

There’s little doubt that driverless cars are headed to a roadway near you. In fact, they’re already out and about in select towns in California, Texas and Washington. For some, the idea of surrendering the controls might sound like a dream come true. Driving-loving auto enthusiasts, on the other hand, might fight tooth and nail to stay behind the wheel. But what about young people—those who’ve grown up with technology, living online and engaging with their devices more than they do their friends and family?

Self-Dependence Wins Out

As it turns out, recent Nielsen research found that while awareness of self-driving cars is strong, particularly among older youths (grades 9-12), more than 60% of American youths say they would prefer to do the driving rather than letting a car do it for them. Furthermore, this research shows that the older the youth, the stronger the preference is to do the driving. Nearly three in four high school age youths prefer to man the wheel while only just over half of elementary age youths feel the same way. 

Despite their love for portable technology and their drive to stay connected, young Americans don’t express any significant favoritism when it comes to which brands they’d prefer to make tomorrow’s self-driving cars.

In fact, young consumers’ overall interest in owning a self-driving vehicle made by a technology company is nearly as high as their interest in buying such a car from a traditional auto maker. When we look at the opinions of different ages, however, we see that middle- and high-schoolers actually favor traditional vehicle makers.

Central to the further development of self-driving vehicles is what’s driving these different attitudes among the varied youth age groups. As elementary schoolers grow older and eventually start driving, will they shift in their thinking toward a desire to take the wheel themselves or are they so accustomed to placing their trust in technology that they will continue to be more open to allowing the vehicle to do the driving?

The general optimism that self-driving vehicles can bring about safer roadways is largely dependent on the effectiveness of the technology. This real interest is guarded by the need to prove it first. That said, and considering the experiences today’s youth have had with new and different technologies in all parts of their lives, there appears to be belief among many that a self-driving vehicle can be achieved.

For more insight, download the What’s Driving Tomorrow’s Drivers report.