Self-Driving Cars Aiming To Change Our Most Favorite Of Car Colors

What color is your car?

I’m sure that you’ve made a perfect choice for your car.

Go with me on a thought experiment about car colors, if you are willing to entertain some outsized thinking on this topic. There are about 285 million cars in the United States, which is a whole lot of cars, and imagine if they were all painted the same color.

Besides being a somewhat drab approach to life for us all, you would undoubtedly find it very hard to readily discover your own car while walking through a crowded parking lot. Envision row after row of cars that are the same identical color (on a related topic, see my analysis of the qualms about all future cars potentially looking alike, see ).

Even if the color was bright and eye-catching, let’s say a sparkling red, keep in mind that we are assuming for the moment that every car is that same color (i.e., all are red). In that sense, the seemingly look-at-me red color does nothing to make any particular car stand out in comparison to any other.

Some people eschew purchasing a car that is red since they believe that cops can more readily spot a speeding red car versus one of a more muted color.

In this imaginary scenario of all cars being painted red, apparently the red car as a speeding magnet is no longer going to hold true per se since all cars will be red and none sticks out more than any other. Score a point for those that want to get a red sports car and push the pedal to the metal, a dicey notion today but would be a blend-in proposition for our all-the-same color cars scenario.

Anyway, we know that cars are not all painted the same color and there seems to be a relatively wide array of colors being used.

Researchers claim that the color of your car is a reflection of your personality.

In other words, you ostensibly choose a color for your car that tends to match your personality traits. You might not even be aware that you are doing this. When buying a car, you might gravitate toward a car with a particular color, and it is seemingly a natural fit for you. Thus, you are not first saying to yourself that you have personality X and ergo you ought to get a car with painted color Y. Instead, the car color is just a natural outgrowth of your selection process for picking a car.

That’s not to suggest that some people aren’t aware of their car color preferences and how it befits their personal style. Many people have a hunch or extrasensory feeling that a specific color is somehow right for them.  They therefore will only buy a car that matches their color preference. Indeed, some people are so adamant about this aspect that when they rent a car, they insist on the color of the rental vehicle, despite the obvious fact that they aren’t buying it and are only using it for a little while.

You might say it is a stubbornness aspect, or perhaps they believe in car color karma.

Can you guess what car colors are the most popular to the least popular?

Also, how does your car color preference fit into the rankings?

Let’s take a look at the rankings.

Please note that the rankings are based on published research of new car sales in the approximate last five years and as only for cars sold in the United States. The percentage of cars is shown in a rounded fashion and the ranking goes from one to twelve. Other colors beyond the ones indicated below are beyond the twelfth ranking and not listed here (though, yes, those other colors are still important and maybe you can be proud that your chosen car color is relatively unique in comparison to everyone else if it perchance falls below the end of this abbreviated listing).

Here then are the rankings:

1)     White Painted Cars (24%)

2)     Black Painted Cars (23%)

3)     Gray Painted Cars (16%)

4)     Silver Painted Cars (15%)

5)     Red Painted Cars (10%)

6)     Blue Painted Cars (9%)

7)     Brown Painted Cars (1%)

8)     Green Painted Cars (0.7%)

9)     Beige Painted Cars (0.4%)

10)  Orange Painted Cars (0.4%)

11)  Gold Painted Cars (0.3%)

12)  Yellow Painted Cars (0.2%)

Mull over those percentages.

A whopping 63% or roughly two-thirds of cars are painted either white, black, or gray. That might seem surprising, though if you wander around a mall parking lot, it becomes rather evident quickly that this does seem to describe the preponderance of car colors.

The red that we were earlier pretending was the color of all cars is only about one-tenth of them today. For those that love red colored cars, imagine their joy if all cars were painted red. Well, maybe this would irk those red favoring car owners since all of a sudden everyone was using their chosen color. It might undercut their sense of being a maverick and gloomily would find themselves now simply in the same red color camp like everyone else.

This brings us round to the assertion that there are personality types associated with car colors.

Some believe that the car color relationship to personalities is a bit of a reach and marginally valid, likening the topic to astrological fortune-telling. Others take umbrage at such a posture. They point out that you can readily find in-depth research on the topic that has attempted to statistically connect a tie between the car color preference and personality tendencies of the car owner or car driver.

Anyway, believe as you wish, and here is the usual characterization (using the same ranking as earlier shown):

1)     White Painted Cars – someone that strives for perfection, relishes purity, modernness

2)     Black Painted Cars – timeless choice, prefers air of mystery, luxury-seeking

3)     Gray Painted Cars – someone that prefers to blend in, traditionalist

4)     Silver Painted Cars – innovator, hard worker, practical

5)     Red Painted Cars – has a zest for life, outgoing, impulsive

6)     Blue Painted Cars – serene and compassionate, introspective

7)     Brown Painted Cars – thrifty, down-to-earth

8)     Green Painted Cars – peace-loving marches to their own tune

9)     Beige Painted Cars – persistent, loyal, stay the distance

10)  Orange Painted Cars – someone that is economic, wants to be different

11)  Gold Painted Cars – bold, optimistic

12)  Yellow Painted Cars – joyful, always happy

Please consider those as rather broad depictions and that exceptions certainly apply. As they say, your mileage may vary.

Now that we’ve covered the present day of car colors, maybe we ought to noodle on the future and how there might be changes afoot in all of this.

Why would things change?

The anticipated future is one of using self-driving cars.

This raises an interesting question: Will the advent of AI-based true self-driving cars cause disruption or repainting as it were of the car colors that are prevalent on automobiles?

Time to unpack the matter and see.

Understanding The Levels Of Self-Driving Cars

As a clarification, true self-driving cars are ones that the AI drives the car entirely on its own and there isn’t any human assistance during the driving task.

These driverless vehicles are considered a Level 4 and Level 5 (see my explanation at ), while a car that requires a human driver to co-share the driving effort is usually considered at a Level 2 or Level 3. The cars that co-share the driving task are described as being semi-autonomous, and typically contain a variety of automated add-on’s that are referred to as ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems).

There is not yet a true self-driving car at Level 5, which we don’t yet even know if this will be possible to achieve, and nor how long it will take to get there.

Meanwhile, the Level 4 efforts are gradually trying to get some traction by undergoing very narrow and selective public roadway trials, though there is controversy over whether this testing should be allowed per se (we are all life-or-death guinea pigs in an experiment taking place on our highways and byways, some contend, see my coverage at ).

Since semi-autonomous cars require a human driver, the adoption of those types of cars won’t be markedly different than driving conventional vehicles, so there’s not much new per se to cover about them on this topic (though, as you’ll see in a moment, the points next made are generally applicable).

For semi-autonomous cars, it is important that the public needs to be forewarned about a disturbing aspect that’s been arising lately, namely that despite those human drivers that keep posting videos of themselves falling asleep at the wheel of a Level 2 or Level 3 car, we all need to avoid being misled into believing that the driver can take away their attention from the driving task while driving a semi-autonomous car.

You are the responsible party for the driving actions of the vehicle, regardless of how much automation might be tossed into a Level 2 or Level 3.

Self-Driving Cars And Paint Colors

For Level 4 and Level 5 true self-driving vehicles, there won’t be a human driver involved in the driving task.

All occupants will be passengers.

The AI is doing the driving.

Your first thought about the use of self-driving cars is that there doesn’t seem to be any obvious reason that the color of cars would be any different in terms of the preferences of today versus the future.

Actually, there is a likely big difference, namely that there isn’t a human driving the car.

This is significant because many people associate the act of driving a car as a kind of extension of their personality and their persona. But there won’t be people behind the steering wheel. The AI presumably has no stake in the game of what the color of a car might be. Unless you believe in an AI that becomes sentient someday and perhaps starts incurring the same cravings as humans, there is no reason to believe that the AI driving system gives one iota about the painted color of the car.

In short, from the perspective of the driver, a true self-driving car can be any painted color and it just doesn’t matter which color is chosen.

There is someone else though involved in the car color choosing gambit.

The owner of the car.

We usually associate the owner of a car as generally being the driver of the car too. In that way of things, the owner picks a color for the car that matches their preferences and that will be exhibited by them while also being at the steering wheel of the vehicle.

There is a humongous open question about the ownership of self-driving cars.

The AI that’s driving the car is not the owner, at least not for the foreseeable future and not presumably until (or if) we ever can somehow craft or spur AI to become sentient.

Pundits believe that the owners of self-driving cars will be large corporations.

These firms will opt to buy self-driving cars and deploy those autonomous vehicles in large-scale fleets. It might be that a company that has nothing to do with transportation might decide that being in the ridesharing business by using self-driving cars is a profitable line, and thus the company purchases a slew of self-driving cars for that purpose. Or, it could be an automaker that makes self-driving cars decides to do the same (they make the vehicles, and they rideshare them as a paying service).

The most obvious guess is that existing ridesharing firms would do this.

All told, the point being that there will apparently no longer be individual ownership of cars, at least not for self-driving cars. All self-driving cars will be bought up by companies that do so in fleets and either use those vehicles for their own purposes or ridesharing (some assert).

What’s the big deal about this related to car colors?

Right now, there are about 250 million individual car owners and drivers in the U.S. that individually are essentially choosing the colors of cars. Of course, the reality is that the automakers are painting the cars to match the color preferences of those that are buying their cars. If people want gray painted cars, so be it. If people want cars that are painted purple, this can be done. The whole machination is pretty much based on a semblance of supply and demand.

In any case, suppose that individuals aren’t going to be owning self-driving cars and nor driving self-driving cars. This means that those fleet owners are going to be able to choose the car colors. Instead of millions upon millions of people individually choosing car colors, it will be a handful of corporate executives that will do so.

If that is the case, you need to consider what would you do in terms of choosing car colors.

Probably the easiest and cheapest thing to do would be to decide that all of your self-driving cars ought to be the same color. Pick one color and stick with it. This would help to provide a sense of the branding of your vehicles. The marketplace would come to realize that your ridesharing self-driving cars are all the color of Z, whether that might be red, blue, green, white, black, or whatever color you have chosen.

You probably would not want to pick a color that a competitor is using. This would not allow your self-driving cars to stand out. On the other hand, maybe this could be a useful strategy if you are the underdog and want people that are using ridesharing to be somewhat confused about the leading brand versus your self-driving cars.

This also brings up the notion of consumer preference.

Will people that ride in self-driving cars be aware of or choosy about what the car color is?

You might think it odd that passengers are going to care what car color the self-driving car is. All that would seem to matter to a passenger is that the self-driving car is safe, available, least costly, and thus the car color would be an altogether unimportant matter.

That might be the case at first, but once self-driving cars become widely available, there might emerge a societal cultural semblance around the car colors. Initially, no one cares about the car colors and only that the darned things work. Once all of the self-driving car brands can showcase that they work, it could be that the nitty-gritty of other less crucial elements looms larger than would otherwise be justified.

This might translate into a fleet of self-driving cars that a fleet owner has purposefully painted some unusual or considered outlandish colors. They hope that their ridesharing self-driving cars will be sought by the public that wants a ride in a “maverick” and not just an everyday self-driving car. You can easily imagine the marketing by a fleet operator that tries to convince the public that the car color is important and still makes a statement about your personality, even though you aren’t driving the vehicle and are not the owner of it.

In short, we might end-up with nearly all of the roadway self-driving cars being just a few colors and almost none in the more “extravagant” car colors. Since today the car colors of white, black, and gray for quite popular, perhaps this two-thirds or so of today’s cars will rise to maybe 90% of self-driving cars. The remaining ten percent would be across the other car colors and done to try and have smaller fleet operators be able to appear distinctive.

Given the preceding viewpoint, please be aware that not all pundits are sold on the idea that self-driving cars will be owned solely by large companies.

I am known as a contrarian on this topic. My position is that we will certainly have large entities owning fleets, there is no argument there, but that we will still have individual ownership too. In brief, people are going to want to join the gravy train of ridesharing self-driving cars and this will spur a cottage industry of individuals and pods of people that opt to buy a self-driving car and deploy it as both a personally used vehicle and as a ridesharing vehicle (see my discussion at ).

In that contrarian outlook, the possibility of car colors being important is something that will be indeed a notable issue. We are back to the notion of thousands upon thousands of individual owners making such a choice, even if they aren’t driving those vehicles. They will want to select a car color that they believe is suitable for their personal tastes as a passenger and as an owner, and that will be alluring in a ridesharing network for deploying their self-driving car.


There is a bit of a knockout punch that can quickly undermine the entire discussion about the car colors topic.

Are you ready?

Some believe that by the time self-driving cars are prevalent, there will also be a new kind of electronic skin, as it were, whereby you can stretch this electronic mesh across the entire exterior of a car, and it will be the same as if you had a car engulfed in an LED screen.

The outside of a car will be used for advertising, allowing the showcasing of video ads. People sitting inside a self-driving car won’t necessarily know what ads are being displayed on the exterior. Meanwhile, as those passengers look outside the windows of the self-driving car, they will see tons of ads that are being displayed on all of the nearby passing self-driving cars.

This raises concerns of an overabundance of visual blot and our world becoming garish.

If there is a buck to be made, you can anticipate this use of car exteriors for displaying ads is going to happen and likely to a great profusion. Some believe that new laws or regulatory action will be needed to clamp down on the visual “polluting” aspects of widespread video on the outside of cars.

The related matter is the car painted colors topic.

Via the electronic mesh that encompasses a self-driving car, the vehicle can be any color at any point in time.

A fleet owner might decide that on say a Monday their self-driving cars are all blue.

On Tuesday, the autonomous vehicles might be turned to orange at the switch of a button (all the self-driving cars being connected via OTA or Over-The-Air to the cloud system that is centrally able to communicate with the vehicles). Whatever seems to be the best and most attractive choice toward getting ridesharing riders will be the key criteria for choosing the daily or even moment-to-moment selection of colors.

Finally, there’s the ultimate in customization that this brings forth too.

You request a ridesharing self-driving car to come to pick you up. The ridesharing network systems know that you prefer the color pink. Upon arrival at your house, the self-driving car is entirely pink in color. You are elated.

You might be able to alter the car colors. Suppose you decide that it doesn’t seem like a day for pink and you prefer purple instead. Once you get into the self-driving car, you merely tell the AI via its Natural Language Processing (NLP) to change the color.

Or, the AI scans your face, decides what kind of personality you have, and opts to select a car color on your behalf.

Maybe that is a bridge too far and overly intrusive by the AI.

Sometimes, those AI driving systems get a bit overexcited about things.

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