Three in Four Americans Remain Afraid of Fully Self-Driving Vehicles

COLUMBUS, Ohio (March 14, 2019) – A year after a number of high-profile automated vehicle (AV) incidents, 71 percent of people remain afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles, according to AAA’s annual automated vehicle survey. While overall AV sentiment has not yet returned to what it was prior to these incidents (63 percent), AAA believes testing, experience and education will help boost consumer acceptance.

“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 to greater acceptance.”

Experience builds trust:

Many cars on the road today are equipped with the building blocks for fully self-driving vehicles. AAA’s recent survey revealed that regular interaction with these advanced driver assistance systems improves consumer comfort level. On average, drivers who have had lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and self-parking are about 68 percent more likely to trust these features than drivers who don’t have them.

Americans are also receptive to the idea of automated vehicle technology in more limited applications:

.About half (53 percent) are comfortable with low-speed, short distance forms of transportation like people movers found at airports or theme parks.

.Nearly half (44 percent) are comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles for delivery of food or packages.

.However, only one in five (19 percent) would be comfortable with the use of fully self-driving vehicles to transport children or loved ones.

“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,” said 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.”

Ohio’s first self-driving shuttle:

In December 2018, Smart Columbus and DriveOhio launched Smart Circuit, Ohio’s first self-driving vehicle, with a goal to educate Columbus residents and visitors on autonomous vehicle technology by providing firsthand experience aboard a vehicle. The shuttles, which circle the Scioto Mile at a top speed of 25 mph, are operated by May Mobility and staffed at all times by an operator who oversees the technology and answers passenger questions.

More than 4,100 people have ridden the shuttles since launch, and among those surveyed, 48 percent said that their trust in self-driving vehicle technology increased following their ride aboard Smart Circuit. More than 62 percent of riders indicated they were extremely likely to recommend riding to a friend.

“Awareness and interest in self-driving vehicles is at an all-time high, but firsthand experience with the technology is still rare in most cities,” said Jordan Davis, Director, Smart Columbus for the Columbus Partnership. “We’re proud to offer Smart Circuit to the Columbus community to help demystify self-driving vehicle technology and help our residents envision the role autonomous vehicle technology could play in our daily lives.”

Engineers, researchers and policymakers from Smart Columbus and DriveOhio will use the demonstration to inform future deployments of self-driving vehicle technology in cities throughout Ohio, including a route planned for Columbus’ Linden neighborhood.

Future of autonomy:

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. Those who are skeptical that fully self-driving cars will arrive soon cite reasons, such as:

.lack of trust,

.not wanting to give up driving,

.the technology won’t be ready, and

.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 believes the more drivers understand the benefits and limitations of the current technology, the more prepared and receptive they will be for the experience of riding in a fully self-driving vehicle when the time comes.