Automotive Research

Survey finds American motorists have become less wary of self-driving cars

One question that remains as automakers continue working on autonomous vehicles is whether drivers trust them enough to surrender control.

Self-driving cars hold the promise of a safer, more convenient future, and American drivers seem to be gradually embracing this technology. In a recent AAA survey, about two-thirds of drivers said they would feel afraid to ride in a self-driving car; this is a sizable drop from the three-quarters of drivers who felt that way a year ago. The survey also found that about half of drivers want autonomous tech in their next vehicle, and that drivers who already have such features are more likely to feel safe in a self-driving car.

Fear of riding in self-driving vehicles has lessened

63% of drivers

said they would be afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle, down from 78% in 2017

28% of drivers

said they would trust a self-driving vehicle, up from 19% in 2017

There was a moderate gender gap in respondents: 73% of women said they'd feel afraid to ride in a self-driving car, compared to 52% of men. Split by age, 68% of baby boomers and 70% of Generation X said they’d be afraid, in contrast to 49% of millennials surveyed.

Many still fear sharing the road with self-driving cars

46% of drivers

would feel less safe driving a regular car alongside self-driving cars

13% of drivers

would feel more safe driving a regular car alongside self-driving cars

This question revealed a smaller gender gap: 55% of women said they'd feel less safe sharing the road with self-driving cars, more than the 36% of men. There was a larger generational split, though, as 54% of baby boomers and 47% of Gen Xers would feel less safe, versus only 34% of millennials.

Despite fears, drivers want autonomous tech

51% of drivers

want autonomous tech in the next vehicle they buy or lease

23% of drivers

aren't sure whether they want autonomous tech in their next vehicle

While fear of autonomous tech has dampened, many drivers appear hesitant to give up control of a vehicle. This may be attributed to driver confidence: 73% of drivers felt their driving abilities are above average.

 

Familiarity with autonomous tech leads to trust

AAA found that drivers of vehicles equipped with semi-autonomous driver assistance features are

75% more likely

to say they trust autonomous technology

Key takeaways from the survey

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Many drivers aren't ready to give up all control

While they’re eager to get their hands on semi-autonomous features like adaptive cruise control, many motorists don’t yet trust new technology to keep them safe without a human at the wheel.

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Self-driving vehicles will be gradually adopted

Between the remaining technological hurdles, the need for new regulations, and the slow turnover of existing car inventory, self-driving cars will be introduced slowly, giving drivers time to adjust.

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Firsthand experience will be key to easing fears

Seeing autonomous tech in action builds trust. AAA’s survey found that drivers who own vehicles with autonomous systems like adaptive cruise control were 75% more likely to trust such features.

Information taken from “More Americans Willing to Ride in Fully Self-Driving Cars,” January 24, 2018, American Automobile Association.

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