A new survey on cars, driving and autonomous vehicles challenges the conventional wisdom about the nation’s largest generation and suggests that millennials’ indifference toward vehicle ownership was overstated during the recession.
Long thought to be less interested in vehicle ownership and driving, 81 percent of millennial drivers taking part in the nationwide survey said they like, love or are passionate about driving, in line with Gen Xers (78 percent) and baby boomers (79 percent).
Fifty-seven percent of all drivers – including 64 percent of millennials – said they believe a movement will be needed to preserve the driving experience when autonomous cars are the norm.
“Full autonomy is going to save lives, make commuting easier and unclog cities,” said McKeel Hagerty, CEO of the specialty insurer Hagerty. “But these survey results also indicate that people, including millennials, are always going to want to drive themselves when they want to. It’s clear people don’t want to lose the joy, freedom and control that comes with having their hands on the wheel.”
Hagerty commissioned the survey in response to the rapid rise of autonomous-vehicle technology. The survey polled 1,000 U.S. drivers 18 years and older. The mixed pool of respondents consisted of millennials (35 percent), Generation X (26 percent), baby boomers (31 percent) and the silent generation (8 percent).
On the appeal of driving, the survey found:
- 79 percent of all respondents from all generations are passionate about, love or like driving
- 85 percent said driving is an important part of American culture
- 81 percent said learning to drive a car is a rite of passage worth preserving
- 71 percent said driving is often fun even when they’re not driving for fun
- 70 percent said driving is “time for myself”
- 61 percent said driving was often a positive emotional experience
- 59 percent said driving is a form of stress release
- 77 percent agree they’d rather drive themselves on an open winding road
On the subject of autonomous vehicles, the survey found that more than 85 percent of people will always want the option of driving a car themselves and 79 percent aren’t willing to see driving disappear. Supporting the desire for co-existence among autonomous and human-driven vehicles, the survey found that 66 percent of respondents didn’t think automation has to threaten the benefits of driving.
As a result of these findings, Hagerty has launched an initiative called “Why Driving Matters” to organize and amplify the voices of car lovers when it comes to future driving laws.
“One of our goals will be to work with policymakers so that years or even decades from now when the bulk of cars are fully autonomous, the act of driving is protected,” Hagerty said. “We also want to facilitate the discussion about what driving looks like in the future – will driving someday be mostly a suburban activity? Will there be driving parks or experience centers? Will cars that drive themselves increase interest in the analog experience of driving yourself at times? We suspect so, but now’s the time to have those conversations.”
Hagerty is hosting a series of town-hall discussions that will engage the public and media in dialogue around the importance of driving.
”The idea of actually exploring, actually driving, actually seeing different spaces, it’s the way I grew up and it’s something I fear being lost,” Hagerty said at the most recent town hall in Los Angeles. “[Technology makes] it easy to connect with people all across the world, but are we really seeing the spaces around us? I’m not so sure anymore. One of the things I love about being in a car and especially driving one myself is I’m somehow taking command.”