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The Generational Divide on Self-Driving Cars

Will fast-changing automobile technology wedge a further divide between the oldest and youngest generations?

Self-driving cars used to seem like one of many elements of an idealistic future that looked great on the big screen but would never happen…along with robots that clean up after you and meals in pill form. But as anyone who has ever used a Roomba or drank a meal-replacement shake can tell you, that future is nigh.

Self-Driving Car Generational Divide

According to a cross-generational survey by the College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, which polled 1,000 people between the ages of 18 – 70, age is a major deciding factor when it comes to people’s attitudes towards view self-driving cars. The survey found that the features people would most like to see in self-driving cars include:

  • Self-adjusting performance based on weather conditions
  • Self-parking to find a space
  • Driver fatigue warning
  • TV or computer in the dashboard
  • Active visual display of car safety features
  • Virtual valet to avoid bad weather (car picks you up)
  • Voice command for the visually impaired

While the youngest group surveyed, 18-24 year olds, placed importance on cars having the “bells and whistles” in self-driving cars, including a TV or computer in the dashboard, they also agreed with the oldest group (66-70 year olds) in wanting cars that will find parking spots for them!

And if you think that the youngest group only wants self-driving cars so they can text and use their smartphones, think again. People under 35 were the most likely (37%) to want their cars designed as an office! This would certainly transform traditional office culture, and could even have a dramatic effect on hiring, scheduling meetings, and travelling for business.

But before you think that young people are all workaholics, Millennials showed the greatest interest in turning their cars into mobile party venues. It’s no wonder that Millennials have such a binary reputation!

The Baby Boomers surveyed were the group most likely to want to read while in a car, and those 18 to 24 are the second most likely group to pick up a book. Survey respondents aged 25 to 35 are the most inclined to watch movies and put on makeup.

All these features aside, the main pushback self-driving cars have been receiving is regarding safety. Are you willing to trust a computerized car with your life? According to the survey, a significant number of Baby Boomer drivers aged 46 to 70 actually consider night driving, driving in unfamiliar places, interstate travel, and driving in traffic to be safer with self-driving technology!

Google has been heralding the self-driving car revolution, testing out over one million of these vehicles in Mountain View, California and Austin, Texas. However, car companies including Mercedes-Benz, Delphi Automotive, Nissan and Audi also have driverless cars in the works. So no matter how old you are or which generation you fall into, self-driving cars are becoming less a fantasy than an actual reality that we will all have to face very soon.

So who will be the target market for self-driving cars? And with which features will the first generation of these vehicles come equipped? This all remains to be seen, but what is for certain is that automobile technology is changing, and will sooner or later change the way we all get around.

Would you ride in a self-driving car? How about own one? Tweet your answer at @WhatTheGen or @JasonDorsey and don’t forget to add your #generation!

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