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Computer, take the wheel: why you can trust self-driving cars
Julia Johnston

Julia Johnston

In America, 71% of Americans reported that they were afraid to ride in a fully self-driving car - why is it that in China, the same percentage fully embrace the idea?

As humans of 2020, we depend on technology more than some of us care to admit. From the moment we wake up (thanks to our smartphone, most likely), we depend on our beloved devices to provide us with our daily news, weather and traffic reports. We turn to tech to find food, gifts, clothing, love— just about anything, really . We trust it with our most sensitive information like credit card details and pictures of family, friends and dogs. We rely on it to tell us the best way to get somewhere and when to leave to arrive on time. But when it comes to actually taking us to that destination — as in fully autonomous cars — that trust in tech sours to suspicion. Why?

Humans are better drivers… right?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, human error is responsible for over 90% of road accidents . It appears we, not machines, are the problem. In fact, distracted driving, drunk driving and speeding are the leading causes of car accidents in the United States. Maybe the solution is letting a computer take the wheel. ­

Tony Han, CEO and co-founder of the Chinese robotaxi startup WeRide.ai, says in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review:

"In the 19th century, elevators still needed human operators, but now they are unstaffed. The autonomous operation of vehicles will become a commonplace service."

China seems to embrace the idea of autonomous vehicles with open arms. An impressive 72% of people in China would trust a self-driving vehicle and 28% would like to be one of the first trailblazers to try it out.

Meanwhile in America, 71% of Americans reported that they were afraid to ride in a fully self-driving car — that's a “no way" from nearly 3 out of 4 people!

But some forms of automated travel are widely accepted worldwide. For instance, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) in London is driverless and most of today's airplanes have automated controls. An excerpt from a policies and regulations handbook from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reads quite plainly: “The two-axis autopilot system installed in most general aviation aircraft controls the pitch and roll of the aircraft. The autopilot can operate independently, controlling heading and altitude, or it can be coupled to a navigation system and fly a programmed course or an approach with glideslope." Why are automated cars a different story?

Driving confidence

Slowly but surely, trust is growing and the driverless movement is gaining traction. The Department of Motor Vehicles in California recently approved the testing of self-driving cars on public roads, granting permits to Uber and over 60 other transport companies.

At HERE Technologies, we support the progression towards fully automated vehicles and recognize that driverless cars must be capable of safely executing the proper maneuvers and strategies to provide a comfortable experience. That's where we come in. The best, most efficient way to accomplish this is to combine sensors with dynamic and highly precise HD maps. The HERE HD Live Map provides the transparency needed to enable safe decision-making within the vehicle through the utilization of reliable data.

The vehicles of tomorrow, today

In late 2019, a survey by Adobe Analytics revealed that 40% of American adults support self-driving cars being available for purchase, and 44% say self-driving features factor into their vehicle purchasing decision. Survey respondents say if cars were fully autonomous, they would probably spend their newly afforded time doing a lot of the activities you aren't allowed to do while behind the wheel: talking on the phone, watching TV shows and messaging via email or text.

To hear numbers such as 40% and 44%, might sound like Americans aren't totally sold on self-driving. While this may true (for now), these percentages are actually a reflection of positive growth, as more and more people in the US, especially millennials, are warming up to autonomous vehicles. And why shouldn't we? With a computer handling the driving, that leaves us more time for the tech we love.