Study: Younger people more trusting of self-driving cars

The J.D. Power survey found self-driving cars face a trust gap with older generations. .
The J.D. Power survey found self-driving cars face a trust gap with older generations. . –ULI DECK / EPA

Whenever self-driving cars finally hit the roads, you’ll be more likely to find younger generations taking them out for a spin. Or do we mean being taken out for a spin?

The J.D. Power 2016 Tech Choice Study found more than half of members of Generations Y and Z were likely to trust self-driving vehicles. Members of Generation X, Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers were increasingly less likely to say they would trust autonomous technology.

The study found 56 percent of Generation Y and 55 percent of Generation Z trusted self-driving vehicle technology. Trust in autonomous vehicles declined as generations grew older, with only 41 percent of Generation X, 23 percent of Baby Boomers and 18 percent of Pre-Boomers saying they trust self-driving technology.

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Overall, younger generations demonstrated greater interest in self-driving cars than older consumers. The study found 59 percent of Gen Y (also known as Millennials) said they would “definitely’’ or “probably’’ be interested in a fully autonomous vehicle. About one-third said they would pay $3,000 or more for the technology.

Kristin Kolodge, J.D. Power’s executive director of driver interaction, said it’s this interest that makes young people more likely to trust the tech.

“The level of trust is directly linked to the level of interest in a new technology among automobile buyers,’’ said Kolodge in a statement.

The survey found Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers will have a difficult time warming up to self-driving technology once it arrives compared to younger generations. The report found 39 percent of Boomers and 40 percent of Pre-Boomers said they said they “definitely would not’’ trust self-driving technology.

On the other hand, only 27 percent of Gen X, 18 percent of Gen Y and 11 percent of Gen Z said they “definitely would not’’ trust the technology.

The security of the emerging technologies is a shared concern among all ages. Most respondents expressed concerned about privacy and the potential for the systems to be hacked.

“Acceptance can be increased with exposure over time and experience with automated technologies,’’ said Kolodge. “But trust is fragile and can be broken if there is an excessive number of incidents with automated vehicles.’’

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This is the second Tech Choice Study conducted by J.D. Power. The study gauges consumer interest and awareness in emerging vehicle technologies. Over 7,900 consumers who purchased or leased a new vehicle in the past five years participated in the survey that was conducted online between February and March 2016.

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