Past surveys showed reasonably high acceptance toward fully self-driving cars.
But that was before several high-profile automated vehicle incidents occurred about a year ago. Since then, attitudes toward self-driving cars have not rebounded, with 71 percent of participants in an AAA automated vehicle survey saying they are afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles.
But the January 2019 AAA survey of 1,008 adults found some promising results for autonomous vehicles. The survey showed that Americans support the idea of automated vehicle technology in more limited applications.
Fifty-three percent of respondents were comfortable with low-speed, short distance forms of transportation such as people movers at airports or theme parks. Forty-four percent are comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles for delivery of food or packages.
But once you place the respondents’ loved ones into the equation and ask about transporting them in autonomous vehicles, one in five remain comfortable.
How can that fear be eased? AAA believes bridging the gap between the perception of automated vehicle technology and the reality of how it actually works in today’s cars will be important in increasing consumers’ comfort with fully self-driving vehicles.
And that will be done through experience, which AAA says seems to play a major role toward drivers’ feelings about automated vehicle technology. Many of today’s cars come with advanced driver assistance systems, which are considered the building blocks for fully self-driving vehicles, according to AAA.
The AAA survey showed an improvement in consumer comfort level when they experience regular interaction with advanced driver assistance system components such as lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and self-parking. The survey showed that drivers who have experience with one of those technologies are about 68 percent more likely on average to trust these features than drivers who don’t have them.
“Automated vehicle technology is evolving on a very public stage and, as a result, it is affecting how consumers feel about it,” AAA director of automotive engineering and industry relations Greg Brannon said in a news release. “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.”
Brannon believes hands-on experience in more controlled, low-risk environments will help ease fears about self-driving cars. Stronger education will also help, he added.
“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,” Brannon said.
AAA is working to study that area further. In an effort to help more people gain real-world experience with automated vehicle transportation, AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah partnered with the city of Las Vegas, Keolis North America and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) in piloting what AAA says is the first and largest self-driving shuttle for the public to operate in live traffic.
AAA says the self-driving shuttle was the first in the country to be fully integrated with smart city infrastructure and operate on open, public roads.
Participants took a post-ride survey on how their personal experience with the shuttle affected their perception of self-driving vehicles. Many responded that their sentiment improved after riding the shuttle.
Fifty-five percent of Americans believe that most cars will be able the ability to drive themselves by 2029. But AAA believes that might be optimistic when considering the number of vehicles already on the road today.
Those who doubt that fully self-driving cars will arrive by 2029 mention the following reasons: 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.
Many experts say that a fully self-driving fleet is still decades away. But they agree that more highly automated vehicles will be on the roads in the coming years. AAA believes that when drivers understand the benefits and limitations of currently available technology, they will be more prepared and receptive toward the experience of riding in a fully automated vehicle when the time comes.