WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Twenty percent of drivers say they would consider buying a fully computer-operated vehicle, and 90 percent would switch to an autonomous vehicle if they could get cheaper car insurance.

A survey of 2,000 drivers by carinsurance.com found that fully autonomous cars being produced by companies such as General Motors, Nissan and Google would be attractive to nine-out-of-10 licensed drivers if they could get up to an 80-percent discount from their current car insurance.

Twenty percent of those surveyed said they would hand over the keys tomorrow regardless of the insurance rates.

More than one-third (34 percent) of drivers described themselves as “very likely” to buy a self-driving car with a big insurance discount, and 56 percent said they would consider the option.

Many mass-produced, high-end cars already have added safety features such as lane departure systems to warn drivers of drifting, and adaptive cruise control that feels the flow of other drivers. However, these cars – and especially autonomous cars – would likely carry a very large price tag without the insurance costs.

But these completely autonomous, self-driving cars would also reduce many of the human errors such as fatigue, drug use and other minor mistakes that can lead to major accidents.

An October study by the Eno Center for Transportation found that if 90 percent of vehicles were self-driving, as many as 21,700 lives per year could be saved, and economic and other benefits could reach a staggering $447 billion, said the study, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press.

Government research indicates driver error is likely the main reason behind over 90 percent of all crashes. Over 40 percent of fatal traffic crashes involve alcohol, distraction, drugs or fatigue. But self-driven vehicles wouldn’t fall prey to such human failings, suggesting the potential for at least a 40 percent reduction in fatal crashes, the study said.

Experts believe that it still may be decades before fully computerized cars could take over the roads from humans, but these types of vehicles are already getting a big push a series of auto makers from around the world.

Mercedes is already equipping its 2014 S-class with Stop and Go Pilot, a system which operates the car hands-free during traffic jams.


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