AAA Texas: 3 in 4 Americans afraid of fully self-driving vehicles

AAA Texas: 3 in 4 Americans afraid of fully self-driving vehicles
A member of the media test drives a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S car equipped with Autopilot in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Oct. 14, 2015. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A year after a number of high-profile automated vehicle crashes, Americans’ 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. Prior to those high-profile crashes, 63 percent were afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles.

AAA believes the key to helping consumers feel more comfortable is to bridge the gap between the perception of automated vehicle technology and the reality of how it actually works in today’s cars.

“Automated vehicle technology is evolving on a very public stage and, as a result, it is affecting how consumers feel about it. 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.”
Greg Brannon, AAA Director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations

“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.”

Experience seems to play a key role in how drivers feel about automated vehicle technology. Many cars on the road today are equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which are considered the building blocks for fully self-driving vehicles.

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.

The survey also shows that Americans are 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, 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,” Brannon said. “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.”

More than half of Americans think that by 2029, most cars will have the ability to drive themselves. 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. Experts agree that a fully self-driving fleet is still decades away.

Survey results based on 1,008 phone interviews conducted January 10 through 13. The interviews were completed among adults, 18 years of age or older.

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