How Much Extra Would You Pay for a Self-Driving Car?

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 27 2012 12:23 PM

How Much Extra Would You Pay for a Self-Driving Car?

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Self-driving cars coming soon?

Photo by Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Americans are increasingly interested in buying self-driving cars, though some blanch at the price, according to survey results released yesterday by J.D. Powers and Associates. According to a press release (the full study isn’t available to the public), the firm’s annual look at consumers and emerging auto technology found that 37 percent of drivers are interested in an autonomous vehicle. But upon learning that a self-driving car will cost an extra $3,000, the figure dropped to 20 percent.   

On the Verge, Jeff Blagdon argues that self-driving cars would make financial sense for many commuters: “Call us crazy, but in the US, at the $16.57 median hourly wage being able to get work done during your half-hour commute would be worth about $4,140 a year, which would make an extra $3,000 for autonomous driving a steal.”

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Who is most interested in paying a premium for a self-driving car? Men, drivers between the ages of 18 and 37, and those who live in urban areas. Those surveyed still want to be able to take the wheel, however: “Drivers would want the option for autonomy during times of ‘boring’ driving, such as commuting to and from work, highway driving, going to the store or finding a parking space, but want to take control for pleasure driving or manual maneuvering,” the press release says.

Forbes.com’s Jim Gorzelany finds the level of interest “surprising.” But I find it noteworthy that more people aren’t eager to let a computer take the wheel. It will be, of course, a psychological challenge for many drivers. But few technologies will be as rigorously safety-tested as autonomous cars given the green light: Governments, manufacturers, and insurance companies will all have to be satisfied that the vehicles are reliable before they are allowed on the road.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.