Half of Americans want to live in a smart city with driverless cars

One-third of Americans think it could happen within a decade

Nearly half of all Americans are looking forward to the time when they can live in a city where all the vehicles are driverless.

And one-third think that might happen in the next decade .

Those are the results of a study conducted by Intel that surveyed 12,000 people in eight countries, including the U.S., Brazil, China, France and India, in July and August 2013.

According to the survey, 44% of U.S. respondents said they would like to live in a city, where cars, buses and trains operate autonomously. Forty percent said they thought driverless vehicles would cut down the number of traffic accidents, while 38% said it would decrease traffic congestion and 34% said it would reduce carbon emissions.

Just over a third of the U.S. respondents, 34%, said they expect to see driverless cars on the roads by 2023.

Steve Brown, Intel's chief evangelist, told Computerworld he was surprised by the survey results.

"They're probably overly optimistic, but it's nice to see that they're excited about the idea and think it will happen soon," Brown said. "I think it tells us that people are excited about a future that has some intelligence in it to make the world more convenient, more efficient and safer. They like having the ability for cars to talk to each other on the road, sharing information about traffic jams, about accidents and changing routes."

While Americans have a long history of loving their cars and being sticklers about privacy, many say they are willing to not only let their cars do the driving, but they're also willing to forfeit some privacy to see a better commute, Brown said.

According to the Intel study, 54% of those surveyed would be willing to let an intelligent system determine what route everyone on the road would take to their destinations if it meant overall commute time would be reduced by 30%. That response held even if it meant the respondent's own commute time would increase.

"The survey found that Americans are willing to share information with and relinquish control to their city for the common good," Intel noted. "If ambulances, fire trucks and police cars could use the fastest route based on real-time data, 59% would opt into a city program that puts a sensor on their car."

Fifty percent of Americans also said they would allow the government to put a sensor on their cars to help them with intelligent parking.

"It's nice to save yourself time, but from the city's point of view, there's some percentage of traffic that's just people circling around just trying to find parking," Brown said. "Think of the efficiency you could get if there's a parking space booked ahead for you. Your car would know your calendar and would plan ahead and book a place in a parking spot that meets your personal criteria, based on safety, cost and distance from your target."

Brown also talked about a future in which cars would also communicate with traffic signals.

"You car can talk to the lights and say, "Hey, I'm coming your way. Are you green or red?" noted Brown. "And the light might respond, "I'm currently red but I'll be green in five seconds." That way the car can hit the right speed to hit all the green lights."

In its study, Intel also noted that 60% of Americans initially said they had privacy concerns about living in a city where buildings, vehicles and other physical surroundings gather and use anonymous information about what people do and how they do it.

However, if people are told that the information shared would reduce city costs, improve air quality and cut down on energy consumption, then 61% said they would get behind it.

"I think when it comes to privacy, really what we're talking about is an exchange of data," Brown said. "If I'm willing to give up information, I want to make sure who I'm giving it to is trustworthy. And if I perceive that the value I get back in return is worth it, then people are more willing to opt in. It's all about that value exchange. It has to be fair and trusted. And if it is, then people will do it."

This article, Half of Americans want to live in a smart city with driverless cars, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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