Parents Aren’t Quite Ready to Jump into Self-Driving Ubers

Imagine the scene way-back-when where Charlotte runs into Big, only to go into Labor. Let’s remember, of course, that he recently left her best friend at the wedding altar. Though Charlotte insists on taking a cab to the hospital, Big insists on taking his personal driver. She agrees, and soon delivers a healthy baby girl.

The somewhat-niche cultural question soon arose as to whether or not others would take a cab while in labor. The question then became, “Would you take an Uber to the hospital?” This was especially discussed in regards to the recent story of a woman who took an Uber while in labor rather than an ambulance. Now, we have arrived at the question of self-driving Ubers. For new and experienced parents alike, is this too large of a leap? Though the Sex and the City example may be just a tiny bit dramatic, hopefully you’re seeing the quickly-changing dilemma of cars and family safety.

With the arrival of self-driving Ubers in Pittsburgh last month, how are people, and parents specifically, really feeling about them?

Self Driving Ubers

As you can see, only 36% of the people we asked say they are at all likely to feel safe in a self-driving Uber, the majority of whom would only feel safe if there was an employee at the wheel. Luckily for them, experts say we are a long way away from fully autonomous vehicles, so each self-driving Uber will have a trained engineer at the wheel.

Parents and Safety
Among other insights, we found that women, parents and grandparents are less likely to feel safe in a self-driving car. Perhaps their hesitance lies with the safety of their children, as many ride with their children in Ubers, or even use them to shuttle their kids to and from home. Is there an age requirement to drive alone in a self-driving Uber? Are there safety features, such as extra airbags, that these cars have? These are questions Uber will have to grapple with in order to win over potentially worried parents.

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With all of these hesitations and uncertainties, how can Uber overcome them? The short answer – they’re smart.
Something New, Something Borrowed.

It is most likely no coincidence that Uber used Volvo SUVs as their first self-driving cars. Though these aren’t seen as the best cars, they are consistently viewed as the safest – a critical perception when beginning this fear-inducing trial.

In the 2014 Car-Brand Perception Survey, among other years as well, you will only see Volvo listed once or twice. You will not see it rated at the top among quality, design, performance, or even value. However, year after year, it is notably ranked first place for safety – the second most important factor for consumers when buying a new car – and it is a factor that is only increasing in importance. After all, car-related deaths in the U.S. increased 7% from 2014 to 2015. That is the largest single-year rise since 1966. To confirm the survey findings and dig deeper, we asked our own question comparing Volvos to more common Uber car brands.

Self Driving Ubers

As you can see, we arrived at near-identical results as the reports. Volvo far outweighs the other popular Uber car brands in terms of perception of safety. However, the results vary when we focus solely on parents.

Self Driving Ubers

Honda is the safest car brand according to parents, with Volvo and Toyota tied for second safest. The results differ when we look only at those living with school aged-children.

Self Driving Ubers

This group sees Subaru at the safest, closely followed by Volvo. These parent/guardians are incredibly important because of the growing use of Uber to get children to and from school and other activities, as I mentioned.
Regardless of variations in safety perception, Volvo is always seen as either the first or second safest car brand. Therefore, it may be the perfect brand to inspire trust in parents throughout this new high-tech venture, which may expand to other cities in the near future.

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Though other companies are testing similar technology, such as nuTonomy in Singapore, it seems Uber is one of few that has considered the perception and feel of the cars as well. The technology is no good if people are unwilling to try it, or worse, if the technology is not safe for everyone, such as children and families.

At the End of the Day

Even though Uber may be moving faster than the comfort of its parental clients, it has put in place measures to instill a sense of safety and comfort amidst the uncomfortable.
During the transition to driverless Ubers, rest assured that there are still drivers at the wheel, ready to take over if anything ever did happen. So, if you do happen to go into labor and don’t have Big and his personal driver around, Ubers may still be at least one safe way to go.

By Jordan Star for the Healthy Moms Magazine

By Jordan Star, Content Writer, takes the thousands of insights that CivicScience collects daily, and turns them into engaging, entertaining and relevant stories. He is a recent graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and a 2016 Venture for America Fellow. For more information visit

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