A great number of us here at TTAC distrust autonomous vehicles, the predictions surrounding them, andÂ â€” for reasons that become clearer with every reported mishapÂ â€” most of the companies peddling this technology as a way of making our roads death- and traffic-free about 48 minutes from now. Or is it two years? These predictions come and go.
If we’ve learned anything recently, it’s that some companies place greater trust in their fledgling technology than they should, and that citizens would be right to take their forward-thinking claims with a heaping of salt.
An interesting poll just emerged from the snowy wastes of Canada, one that fills this author with a newfound trust in his countrymen countrypeople. Depending on where you live, you either can’t wait for the autonomous revolution, or you don’t trust it at all. Apparently, no country is more skeptical than Canada.
A survey of Canadians over the age of 18 by polling firm Ipsos shows that no other country is less enthused at the prospect of turning over the steering wheel to a mass of sensors and a computer that knows best. In terms of outright opposition to the idea, only Germany, home of the Autobahn and birthplace of the car, ranks higher.
The U.S. matches Canada’s tally of people who hate the idea, but ranks above it in terms of people who “can’t wait to use one.”
Could it be that Canadians are hip to the concerns we’ve stated for so longÂ â€” that less-than-ideal infrastructure and bad weather poses a greater threat to the proliferation of autonomous driving than companies and tech websites suggest? Are Canadians more likely to recognize the hurdles standing in the way of this technology?
Just think of a snowy commute home to your house in rural Anytown, Canada. (North Dakota or Minnesota work, too.) The lane markers are blanketed and completely obscured by many inches of snow. Forward facing cameras and and proximity sensors have accumulated a nice crust of dirty slush or, if it’s colder, pure ice. Yes, that AV you’re riding in will really hold that lane. Is that your exit up ahead, or a farmer’s field? Looks the same from here.
There’s workarounds to every problem, but, as a former Managing Editor postulated, it’s infrastructure that’s key to making AVs work. The vehicles themselves are secondary.
Interestingly, when asked in what situations they would use a vehicle, “driving in bad weather” came in dead last. 32 percent of respondents said they would never operate a vehicle in self-driving mode in such conditions.
Canadians’ cynicism around self-driving vehicles didn’t end there. On every question asked about the supposed benefits of such vehicles, the country’s respondents came in well below the global average. Easier? Nope. More comfortable? Nope. More relaxing? Nada. More economical? Nuh uh. Friendlier to the environment? Hell no. Safer? Get outta here.
Either Ipsos contacted a group of well-camouflaged Luddites strategically sprinkled around the country, or the sentiment towards AVs is legitimately more negative than this author would have assumed. Who knew Canada would top the U.S. on the driving freedom index?
What say you, BBÂ â€” are these Canucks onto something? Has the hype surrounding the capabilities of autonomous vehicles hoodwinked too many people into believing it’s a viable near-term technology for the masses?