If Tesla, Audi, BMW and Google are to be believed, driverless cars are the next big thing. At the very least, they have been a big part of popular culture for the longest time. Anyone who watched Minority Report, for example, would have looked at those cars with wistful eyes. However, whilst anyone with even the slightest interest in technology would know all about these latest driverless car developments, just how much does the population of South-East Asia know about these cars? Intel, the leading chip and processing manufacturer, conducted a study to find out. Turns out, most people are more clued in than you would think.

The Setup

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Intel conducted the test through an online questionnaire, and anyone who was above 20 and either drove frequently or took a taxi at least once a month could participate. In all, 1250 people were questioned in five countries: Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea and Australia. Reasons behind choosing these countries are not published, but it is likely because of the high number of car users in these countries. Apart from Singapore, all countries that took part had an ownership rate of about 75% (three in every four households). Singapore, for obvious reasons, only had 42% of households responding that they owned a car. However, what was uniform across all countries was that at least 60% drove their car at least every other day.

The responses

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Intel asked the respondents a variety of questions about driverless cars. firstly it was if respondents were aware that driverless cars existed at all. Then, the question was about when respondents thought these cars would become commonly available. Then, questions got a bit broader, like what kind of cars they would get next, and what features they wanted in their ‘dream cars.’  Finally, questions revolved around interests, motivations and concerns about driverless cars.

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Responses are very telling. The vast majority of these countries seem to be aware of the existence of driverless cars. Surprisingly, Japan had the lowest number of individuals aware of the technology. Regarding how soon these cars would arrive on the streets, Singapore is the most optimistic. 29% said that within three years it would be commonly available. On average, each country thought it would be between 4.7 (Singapore) and 6.6 (Korea) years before they hit the streets. As for features drivers wanted in their cars, mostly it was about avoiding traffic jams and self-maintenance (solar energy for example). Less important was autonomous driving, with roughly 40% of people having that as a dream feature.

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The real interesting data, however, is in the section about interest in driverless cars. About half of all respondents are interested in owning a car, with the lowest interest in Australia and highest in Taiwan. Intel finds it surprising that non-drivers (those who use taxis) have a higher interest, but that makes sense. After all, driving can be very stressful, especially in morning traffic. For non-drivers, avoiding that stress and having a personal vehicle would be the best of both worlds.

Concerns and Conditions

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Concerns and conditions about driverless cars are also fascinating. Of those interested in driverless cars, very few want to completely surrender control to the car. About 32% of Singaporeans are willing, but only 10% of Taiwanese. A sizeable percentage from every country want a system where should they need to intervene, they have the ability to. This is directly tied to the main concerns about driverless cars. Of respondents, a massive 79% agree that they are concerned about a lack of safety standards implemented for the cars. Interestingly, 74% of drivers are worried about being hacked remotely. There is also concerns about insurance claims, lack of trust in data and computers, all of which have high responses. Just over half of all respondents think that it would suck the fun out of driving.

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Cost-wise, there is an almost even split between those willing to pay a premium of over 20% for driverless cars and those that don’t. The lowest is Singapore, probably due to the already massive cost of car ownership, and the highest is Korea. In fact, driverless cars being expensive is another serious concern for many drivers (69%).Which explains why more respondents (55% to 47%) are open to the idea of driveless taxis.

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So why are people interested in driverless cars? Surprisingly, many responded that it was to do with the likelihood of the cars being electric, and therefore being more environmentally friendly (70%). For the rest, it’s mainly to do with convenience, better atmosphere, more pleasant commute. A sizeable minority even think that it would be prestigious to own such a car (37%)

What intel makes of this

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Speaking of these results, Jerry Tsao, Vice President of sales and marketing group and managing director, regional sales group, Intel Asia Pacific and Japan had some insights. “Driverless cars is one of the most intersting manifestations of technology that we will see in teh next three to five years as it will positively impact so many segments of society,” he said. “In addition to being environmentally friendly, these driverless cars have the potential to save human lives by decreasing the number of accidents and allow mobility for the elderly and the disabled. Intel is working with various car manufacturers to help make what was once considered science fiction a reality.”

So there you have it. We now know how people around the region feel about driverless cars. We also know that intel is one of the companies working on making this a reality.