Chevrolet Bolt electric autonomous test vehicles are assembled at a General Motors plant in Michigan. (Photo By: Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors)
"Twenty-six percent of consumers are interested in full autonomy," said Rebecca Lindland, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book, pointing to the company's research.
"There's definitely a lot of interest" in what's known as Level 4 autonomous vehicles, Lindland said. Those are fully autonomous, but allow a human to take control.
And KBB's research finds interest grows as the calendar is pushed out, presumably with more technical advances on the way.
"Fifty-nine percent of consumers would be willing to buy an autonomous vehicle in 2020. That's a huge number. We're seeing so much interest in these," Lindland told a recent session at the 2017 Energy Information Administration conference.
The 59 percent figure includes not only Level 4 vehicles, but Level 3—partial autonomy—and Level 5, which is full autonomy without a person being able to take over.
Lindland said there are "a lot of reasons" why Americans are interested in self-driving, including safety and convenience.
Autonomous vehicles could also provide a boost for the electric car market.
"There's a lot of discussion about whether all of them will have to be electric, because we need the computing power to run the vehicle," said Lindland. "Even something as simple as turning—that requires a lot of computing power."