John Greenough | October 10, 2016

Americans' Willingness To Ride In A Self Driving Uber

Uber recently began piloting fully autonomous cars available for public rides in Pittsburgh. The fully autonomous Volvo XC90s and Ford Fusions still have a driver behind the wheel and the rides are free. While the fully autonomous Ubers are promising, the company will likely face an uphill battle in convincing Americans to ride in them for three reasons:

1. Overall Ride-Hailing Usage Is Low

  • 22% of registered American voters have used a ride-hailing service, like Uber, according to a recent Vox survey. Of that, only 2% use a ride-hailing service daily, 5% weekly, and 5% monthly. Comparatively, 35% of registered American voters have used a taxi.
    • Ride-hailing usage rose in urban environments, where the services are more heavily concentrated. Approximately 33% of respondents living in urban environments have tried a ride-hailing service. Comparatively, 46% of Americans in an urban environment have used a taxi.

More consumers will probably begin to use ride-hailing services over time, as these companies have already made a dent in the overall taxi industry. But the low percentage of Americans who actively use a ride-hailing service presently will likely hold back companies, like Uber, from fully capitalizing on the market — for now.

2. Americans Are Wary Of Self-Driving Taxis

  • Only 28% of registered American voters would be willing to ride in a self-driving Uber service if it was available in their area. Younger generations and those living in cities are more willing — 44% of those ages 18 to 29 and 35% of urban dwellers indicated that they would be willing to ride in a self-driving Uber service.

One bright spot for Uber is that people in urban areas, where the company tends to operate regularly, have a higher willingness to try self-driving taxis. This means that interest in the service could be helped along by the long-term trend of urbanization, whereby cities will become more densely populated in the next 30 years. In addition, Uber will likely benefit from the willingness of younger generations to try self-driving taxis, as they will become a larger portion of the target market.

3. Americans Are Unwilling To Give Up Their Cars

  • Only 25% of Americans would be willing to sell their car and rely on self-driving taxis, even if the taxis were less expensive. Unsurprisingly, younger generations and urban dwellers were more willing to give up their cars.

Uber and other companies in the US self-driving taxi race should be prepared to be in it for the long haul. At this point, the data shows that Americans are unwilling to ride in a self-driving taxi service and don’t want to give up their cars, but that will likely change over time as younger generations age, and more people move into cities.


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