Most Americans still ‘afraid’ of self-driving vehicles, AAA survey says


American drivers are watching.

And they apparently don’t like what they have seen lately from self-driving cars.

A recent flurry of bad news about self-driving, or autonomous, cars has some people rethinking their positions as nearly three-quarters now say they would be afraid to ride in one.

Photo credit: Nissan via Newspress USA

“Following high-profile incidents involving autonomous vehicle technologies, a new report from AAA’s multi-year tracking study indicates that consumer trust in these vehicles has quickly eroded,” said a report from AAA. “Today 73 percent of American drivers report they would be too afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, up significantly from 63 percent in late 2017.”

And nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of U.S. adults report they actually would feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle while riding a bicycle or walking.

This year’s fear factor still was down about 5 percent compared to the same time last year.

Photo credit: Nissan via Newspress USA

“Despite their potential to make our roads safer in the long run, consumers have high expectations for safety,” said Greg Brannon, an AAA executive. “Our results show that any incident involving an autonomous vehicle is likely to shake consumer trust … a critical component to widespread acceptance.”

Even among millennials, the group that has been quickest to embrace fully self-driving technologies.

“The percentage of millennial drivers too afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle has jumped from 49 percent to 64 percent since late 2017, representing the largest increase of any generation surveyed,” according to AAA, which surveyed more than 1,000 adults living in the U.S.

So, why are so many Americans still afraid of self-driving vehicles?

“Giving up control of a vehicle – one that’s often carrying your most precious cargo – is a scary thought for many Americans,” Brannon explained previously. “However, it’s important to understand that the evolution from today’s vehicles to driverless vehicles will be gradual.”

Here’s what Bannon believes ultimately will help drivers make the transition to such technology:

“Experience, most likely. Drivers who own vehicles equipped with autonomous driver assistance features are, on average, 75 percent more likely to trust the technology than those who do not own it. This suggests that gradual experience with these advanced features can ease consumer fears.”

Autonomous, or self-driving, technology was defined in the AAA survey as advanced safety technology to avoid crashes, including automatic emergency breaking, lane-keeping assistance, self-parking technology and adaptive cruise control.

If you think of automation on a scale of 0-5, according to Bannon, the level of automation available on today’s vehicles only reaches level 2, well short of full automation.

That means there still is time for drivers to adapt to the new technology.