The future of traffic looks safe and economical, say those who are working on driverless car development. When autonomous vehicles are perfected and in use across the nation, we should see motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities plummet. In addition, driverless vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption and decrease traffic congestion and pollution while essentially eliminating distracted and drunk driving.

Not ready

As it turns out, most Americans aren’t buying into that utopian vision of a driverless society. According to a recent poll, “nearly three in four Americans say autonomous vehicles are not ready for primetime.”

While Knoxville has been touted in recent years as a hub for driverless vehicle technology, there are few indications that people here are any more eager for autonomous vehicles than Americans elsewhere.

“No” to taxis

The survey by the Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (a group promoting driverless tech) found that nearly half of the 1,200 people questioned said they would never climb into a self-driving taxi.

Respondents did not indicate that their distrust of autonomous vehicles is due to exposure to widely publicized crashes involving vehicles equipped with autonomous driving technology, however. (Uber and Tesla crashes, for instance.)

According to consumer tech site CNET, the public’s wariness is simply because “because they simply don’t understand” the driverless technology.

Willing to try

Sixty percent of respondents said they would trust autonomous vehicles more if they “understood better how the technology works” and 58 percent indicated that greater trust in the tech could be built if respondents had the opportunity to ride in a driverless vehicle.

Of the 1,200 polled, 678 said they own vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems (systems that help drivers maintain lanes, park, detect pedestrians, etc.). This subset of drivers is more upbeat about driverless tech, with three-quarters of them enthusiastic about the features in their current vehicles and looking forward to future advancements.

Danger in overconfidence

Many experts warn that overconfidence in the assistance technology can result in crashes because drivers are paying too little attention to traffic and road conditions, assuming that their vehicles will take care of whatever comes along.

While the promise and potential of driverless cars are exciting, it’s important today to drive cautiously and smarty so that you and your loved ones get to your destinations safely.