Most Americans Still Afraid Of Self-Driving Cars, Study Finds

Photo Credit: AAA
Americans still aren’t huge fans of self-driving cars according to a new study from the American Automobile Association.

A year after a number of high profile automated vehicle incidents, American attitudes toward fully self-driving cars have not rebounded. AAA’s annual automated vehicle survey found that 71 percent of people are afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles – indicating that overall sentiment has not yet returned to what it was prior to these incidents occurring (63 percent).

AAA believes a big issue is that drivers don’t fully understand the technology and how it works so they aren’t comfortable with it yet. As you might expect, AAA found that the more drivers are around it and use it, the more they trust it.

“Automated vehicle technology is evolving on a very public stage and, as a result, it is affecting how consumers feel about it,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Having the opportunity to interact with partially or fully automated vehicle technology will help remove some of the mystery for consumers and open the door for greater acceptance.”

AAA’s recent survey revealed that regular interaction with ADAS components like lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and self-parking significantly improves consumer comfort level. On average, drivers who have one of these four ADAS technologies are about 68 percent more likely to trust these features than drivers who don’t have them.

Percentage of drivers afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle graph
Photo Credit: AAA

AAA researchers also found that Americans are receptive to the idea of automated vehicle technology in more limited applications. For example, about half (53 percent) are comfortable with low-speed, short distance forms of transportation like people movers found at airports or theme parks while 44 percent are comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles for delivery of food or packages.

However, once the passengers become more personal – in particular, transporting their loved ones – one in five remain comfortable.

“Despite fears still running high, AAA’s study also shows that Americans are willing to take baby steps toward incorporating this type of technology into their lives,” continued Brannon. “Hands-on exposure in more controlled, low-risk environments coupled with stronger education will play a key role in easing fears about self-driving cars.”

Currently, more than half of Americans (55 percent) think that by 2029, most cars will have the ability to drive themselves, however, this timeline may be overly optimistic given the number of vehicles already on the road today. Those who are skeptical that fully self-driving cars will arrive that soon, cite reasons such as lack of trust, not wanting to give up driving, the technology won’t be ready and that road conditions will not be good enough to support the technology.

While experts agree that a fully self-driving fleet is still decades away, it is likely that more highly automated vehicles will be on the roads in the coming years. AAA says it believes the more drivers understand both the benefits and limitations of the technology that is currently available, the more prepared and receptive they’ll be for fully automated vehicle when they arrive.
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