Jan. 22, 2013 at 4:48 PM ET
Chances are, you occasionally send text messages, check directions on your smartphone, and make phone calls without the aid of a hands-free device all while driving around town, according to the results of a new survey.
You do this even though safety is one of your top priorities when buying a car and you lack confidence in other drivers’ ability to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
This so-called “safety disconnect” should be exploited to sell robot-driven cars, according to Stanford University’s Center for Automotive Research, which conducted the survey as part of its ongoing efforts to understand our appetite for driverless car technology.
Robot drivers are likely to strictly follow the rules of the road, much to the chagrin of those drivers still in charge of their cars. In fact, some cars are already being outfitted with robotic technology in the name of safety even though humans, for now, are firmly in control.
Maintaining at least some control was important to 51 percent of the 881 survey respondents, suggesting the appeal of a “pilot-in-an-airplane” type model where drivers can seamlessly switch between autopilot and full control.
The need for control diminishes when passengers are given the choice between a robot or human behind the wheel of a taxi – 76 percent of the respondents said they “probably would” take a taxi driven by a robot.
The technology is most appealing to young professionals who want to be productive during their commute and busy parents who need to focus on their kids, not the road.
For those who opt for the technology, 40 percent would pay an additional $2,000 for it and 30 percent would pay up to $10,000. Younger people, generally, are willing to pay more than older folks.
The chance to own a fully autonomous car is likely within 10 to 20 years, according to the Stanford researchers. Until then, try to stay safe.