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Could a Driverless Highway Be Around the Corner?

While automakers are quick to point to lawmakers as holding back the progress of autonomous vehicles, the problem ultimately boils down to consumers. After all, they are the ones concerned with handing over control—and ultimately their safety—to a machine.

But a new study by Cisco Systems suggests that consumers are warming up to the driverless car, and are much more amenable to the idea than anyone had previously expected.

Granted, this survey wasn't exclusive to the U.S., and these positive results are reflected in that. The 1,514 study questioned consumers ages 18 and older from Canada all the way to Japan, and the responses among each country may surprise you.

Overall, Cisco found that 57 percent of consumers would trust a driverless car. Once broken down by country, however, the responses varied drastically: 95 percent of Brazilians would embrace a world filled with autonomous highways, while only 28 percent of Japanese would be willing to relinquish the wheel.

In the U.S., acceptance hovered just on the “positive” end of the spectrum, where 60 percent of consumers would be happy to see cars that drove themselves. However, not all the nation's answers were so optimistic: when it came to chauffeuring children, only 48 percent would trust an autonomous vehicle. A breakdown of responses by country can be seen below.

On the whole, North America was seemed ready to jump on the bandwagon, while Western Europe was more standoffish. As GigaOM's Kevin Fitchard pointed out, this likely has to do with how each country has been pitched the idea. Fitchard cited Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, who last week made the comment that he didn't like the connotations of ceding control that are associated with the phrase “driverless car.” Musk instead opts to describe the system as an “autopilot.”

But according to Andreas Mai, Cisco director of product management for smart connected vehicles, the survey question was fairly straight forward: “Imagine a car on the road that is controlled entirely by technology and requires no human driver (i.e., Johhny Cab from Total Recall). How likely would you be to ride in such a car?”

And while this was an industry-produced survey (which should always be met with a certain degree of skepticism), these results could mean that an American driverless highway is just around the corner, so to speak.

Full story at GigaOM

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