Are Americans warming to self-driving cars?

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Despite growing investment in autonomous vehicles and technologies, one continued challenge for the industry is the apparent lack of consumer trust in self-driving cars.

But as people become more familiar with autonomous technologies, that sentiment may be changing, with a new study suggesting that Americans are starting to feel more comfortable with the thought of travelling in a self-driving car.

Americans are starting to feel more comfortable with the idea of self-driving vehicles
— AAA Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations Director Greg Brannon

The annual poll from AAA found that although nearly two-thirds of US drivers (63%) report feeling afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, this figure had dropped significantly from 78% in early 2017.



“Americans are starting to feel more comfortable with the idea of self-driving vehicles,” said AAA Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations Director Greg Brannon.

“Compared to just a year ago, AAA found that 20 million more U.S. drivers would trust a self-driving vehicle to take them for a ride.”

Who trusts self-driving vehicles the most?

The survey found that millennial drivers are the most trusting of self-driving vehicles, with just under half (49%) reporting that they would be afraid to ride in a self-driving car, down from almost three-quarters (73%) in last year’s poll.

Male drivers are also more trusting of autonomous technologies than female drivers, with just over half (52%) of the men surveyed saying they were afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle, compared to 73% of the women polled.

Another group becoming more comfortable with self-driving cars is baby boomers, found the poll. Last year, 85% of those surveyed reported being afraid to ride in a self-driving car, while this year the figure had dropped to 68%.

One area where American drivers remain wary of self-driving vehicles is when it comes to sharing the roads with them. As companies start to test more vehicles on public roads, the poll found that nearly half of those questioned (46%) would feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle, compared to just 13% of drivers who report that they would feel safer on shared roads.

(Self-)driving skills

The poll also highlighted one reason drivers may not feel ready to yield control to a self-driving vehicle: three-quarters of US drivers (73%) apparently consider themselves to have better-than-average driving skills.

“AAA found that American drivers are very confident in their driving abilities, which may explain some hesitation to give up full control to a self-driving vehicle,” said Brannon.

“Education, exposure and experience will likely help ease consumer fears as we steer toward a more automated future.”