Self-Driving Cars Face Greatest Skepticism in the South

Despite self-driving pilots fanning out across Southern states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia, our March 2021 Morning Brew-Harris Poll survey found that the region is far more skeptical of autonomous vehicles than elsewhere. You can read our high-level survey findings here.

The big finding: Compared with those in other regions, US adults living in the South are less likely to ride in an AV if available, less willing to pay for them, and less likely to feel safe if they somehow wind up in one. 

  • It’s the only region where the majority of respondents (57%) said they’re not very likely or not at all likely to ride in a self-driving car if given the chance. 
Self-Driving Car Poll

Florida-based AV consultant Grayson Brulte told us this is likely because of a lack of exposure among residents of the South who live outside of regional tech hubs like Austin, Miami, and Atlanta. 

“Perhaps they’ve never met anyone who has been for a ride, or they have a skepticism of Big Tech,” Brulte said. “And it’s the industry’s fault for not engaging with these individuals and saying, ‘This technology is going to impact your life, we’d like to demonstrate it for you, we’d like to learn from you.’”

Reaching out 

Brulte said in general the industry has done a good job connecting with residents of tech hubs—he cited Argo’s involvement in community programs in Miami as an example—but that they’ve done little outside of urban bubbles. 

From Brulte’s POV, outreach doesn’t need to be more complicated than demoing an AV in a parking lot, because, “The magic in all this is when they see the steering wheel move,” and no one is driving. The Society of Automotive Engineers did something like this between 2017 and 2019 called “Demo Days.” 

  • SAE gave rides to 1,395 participants across Detroit, LA, Tampa, and Babcock Ranch, FL, and found that 88% of riders were enthusiastic about self-driving cars after riding in one, up from 82% pre-ride. 

Bottom line: Last week, Waymo’s new co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana told us that, “At a national level, we’re seeing more interest in autonomous driving technology.” But there are still many skeptics who aren’t on board. 

As featured in Emerging Tech Brew on April 19, 2021