Alexander Wulkan

December 7, 2017

Changing Drivers' Minds: The Ultimate Challenge

“I have no problem letting a car take control” said Jeffrey Miller in an interview with the New York Times. Miller an associate professor of engineering at the University of Southern California. “But having a car take my kids to school? You’re talking about people who don’t have the ability to take over if something goes wrong. I’m not that comfortable with it.”

This sentiment has been echoed in a multitude of public opinion surveys such as one conducted by AAA (American Automotive Association) which concluded that "Three out of four U.S. drivers said they would feel “afraid” to ride in self-driving cars [...] Just one in five said they would actually trust a driverless vehicle to drive itself with them inside." This, among other public opinion surveys demonstrates that there are not only questions to be answered, but a lack of accurate and up to date information being delivered to the public. Certain preconceived notions are either wholeheartedly incorrect or are based on information and technology that has become outdated.

From Uber and Volvo, to Lyft and Audi as well as dozens of other companies it is becoming increasingly apparent from those following the industry that technological hurdles will not be the hardest to overcome. Issues surrounding perception, human adoption and trust remain at the forefront. If these concerns are not addressed, the complexity and efficiency as well as the potential societal benefit from self-driving cars will never be felt. Some may jump to the conclusion that all the industry needs to do is spell out the facts. One must simply present skeptics with the factual data and information and that will change their minds, provoking the realization that their opinions are founded on unsubstantiated or out of date claims. However, as the video below demonstrates, it will take a lot more than that to begin to change a skeptic's mind.

As the video states, it can be extremely difficult to change someone's mind. Even a simple solution-presenting facts contrary to false beliefs-will only serve to polarize an audience to have stronger belief in their misconception. This is exemplified in a study by Kaplan et al. which showed that emotion and empathy can decrease the belief-change resistance making it easier to relate and understand another point of view.

Autonomous vehicles are faced with a multitude of challenges in the coming years. While the technological questions are being answered and adapted with every second of test driving, the human concerns are vital to the implementation and integration of autonomous vehicles in society. Everything from corporate trust, questions about data, and concerns about safety must be resolved before a majority of people are willing to get in the front (or back) seat of a driverless car.

Alexander Wulkan is a Junior at Tufts University studying Engineering Psychology (B.A. Human Factors Engineering) and Entrepreneurial Leadership from Montreal, Qc, Canada. 

Boudette, N. E. (2017, November 16). The Near Future of Driving: Eyes Forward, but No Hands at 10 and 2. Retrieved November 28, 2017, link Jeremy Hsu Posted 7 Mar 2016 | 15:01 GMT. (2016, March 07). 75% of U.S. Drivers Fear Self-Driving Cars, But It's an Easy Fear to Get Over. Retrieved November 28, 2017, link C. (2017, May 11). The problem with self-driving cars could turn out to be humans. Retrieved November 28, 2017, link Kaplan, J. T., Gimbel, S. I., & Harris, S. (2016). Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence. Scientific Reports,6(1). doi:10.1038/srep39589
Alexander Wulkan
B.A. Human Factors Engineering, Minor in Entrepreneurial Leadership