Humans 1, Robots 0: Most Americans wary of self-driving cars, poll shows

Above, a self-driving Ford Fusion hybrid used by Ford Motor and Domino's Pizza to test a self-driving pizza delivery car in Michigan on display during the North American International Auto Show in earlier January. (Reuters)
Updated 29 January 2018
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Humans 1, Robots 0: Most Americans wary of self-driving cars, poll shows

DETROIT/NEW YORK: Two-thirds of Americans are uncomfortable about the idea of riding in self-driving cars, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, underscoring one of many challenges for companies spending billions of dollars on the development of autonomous vehicles.
While 27 percent of respondents said they would feel comfortable riding in a self-driving car, poll data indicated that most people were far more trusting of humans than robots and artificial intelligence under a variety of scenarios.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll found a wide disparity of opinion by gender and age, with men generally more comfortable than women about using self-driving vehicles and millennials more comfortable than baby boomers.
Among men, 38 percent said they would feel comfortable riding in a self-driving car and 55 percent said they would not. Among women, only 16 percent said they would feel comfortable and 77 percent said they would not.
Among those skeptical of driverless cars was California resident Phoebe Barron. “I don’t want to be the first guinea pig,” she said in an interview.
Colorado resident Sonja Coy said she had a more positive view. Self-driving cars “are a great innovation and technology with a lot of potential,” she said.
“However, I’m concerned with how liability will fall in the case of accidents, where there are both self-driving and regular cars on the road,” Coy said.
Like most people, she said she had not yet ridden in a self-driving vehicle. Companies testing the vehicles in the US and elsewhere have provided limited public access so far.
“We’re talking about abstract things that many people have not experienced firsthand,” said Jeremy Carlson, principal automotive analyst with IHS Markit.
Automotive and technology industry executives are pushing US lawmakers to pass legislation that would loosen restrictions on testing and deploying self-driving cars. However, the legislation is currently stalled in the Senate.
In the meantime, companies from General Motorsto Alphabet’s Waymo are planning to deploy the first wave of self-driving vehicles over the next three years.
Industry officials and analysts have said providing convincing reassurances about safety is an urgent task for advocates of autonomous vehicle technology.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted in mid-January and collected responses from 2,592 adults.
Other recent surveys have also highlighted widespread doubts among US consumers about self-driving cars, in the absence of any direct experience with them.


Study: Smokers better off quitting, even with weight gain

In this June 22, 2012 file photo, a smoker extinguishes a cigarette in an ash tray in Sacramento, Calif. (AP)
Updated 18 August 2018
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Study: Smokers better off quitting, even with weight gain

  • Quitters saw their risk of diabetes increase by 22 percent in the six years after they kicked the habit
  • The people enrolled in the studies were all health professionals, and did not mirror current smokers in the general population, who are disproportionately low-income, less-educated and more likely to smoke heavily

NEW YORK: If you quit smoking and gain weight, it may seem like you’re trading one set of health problems for another. But a new US study finds you’re still better off in the long run.
Compared with smokers, even the quitters who gained the most weight had at least a 50 percent lower risk of dying prematurely from heart disease and other causes, the Harvard-led study found.
The study is impressive in its size and scope and should put to rest any myth that there are prohibitive weight-related health consequences to quitting cigarettes, said Dr. William Dietz, a public health expert at George Washington University.
“The paper makes pretty clear that your health improves, even if you gain weight,” said Dietz, who was not involved in the research. “I don’t think we knew that with the assurance that this paper provides.”
The New England Journal of Medicine published the study Wednesday. The journal also published a Swedish study that found quitting smoking seems to be the best thing diabetics can do to cut their risk of dying prematurely.
The nicotine in cigarettes can suppress appetite and boost metabolism. Many smokers who quit and don’t step up their exercise find they eat more and gain weight — typically less than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms), but in some cases three times that much.
A lot of weight gain is a cause of the most common form of diabetes, a disease in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. Diabetes can lead to problems including blindness, nerve damage, heart and kidney disease and poor blood flow to the legs and feet.
In the US study, researchers tracked more than 170,000 men and women over roughly 20 years, looking at what they said in health questionnaires given every two years.
The people enrolled in the studies were all health professionals, and did not mirror current smokers in the general population, who are disproportionately low-income, less-educated and more likely to smoke heavily.
The researchers checked which study participants quit smoking and followed whether they gained weight and developed diabetes, heart disease or other conditions.
Quitters saw their risk of diabetes increase by 22 percent in the six years after they kicked the habit. An editorial in the journal characterized it as “a mild elevation” in the diabetes risk.
Studies previously showed that people who quit have an elevated risk of developing diabetes, said Dr. Qi Sun, one the study’s authors. He is a researcher at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
But that risk doesn’t endure, and it never leads to a higher premature death rate than what smokers face, he said.
“Regardless of the amount of weight gain, quitters always have a lower risk of dying” prematurely, Sun said.