Autonomous driving set to be popular with ‘status-oriented trendsetters’ and ‘tech-savvy passengers’

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, it seems like everyone has an opinion – from those who can’t wait to hand over driving duties to a computer, to those who plan to hang on to the steering wheel until it’s prised from their hands.

But according to a new study, there are actually five distinct autonomous driving user types, with lifestyle often influencing people’s attitudes to the technology.

The research by carmaker Audi, “The Pulse of Autonomous Driving”, found that young, high-earning and well-educated ‘status-oriented trendsetters’ and ‘tech-savvy passengers’ are the groups most looking forward to autonomous driving.

The most sceptical user type, according to the company’s research, is the ‘suspicious drivers’, who are typically older, with a lower level of income and education. Meanwhile, the ‘safety-oriented reluctant’ would be willing to try autonomous driving, but only once others have gained experience with the technology.

The largest user group, found the study – part of the carmaker’s “&Audi” initiative – are the ‘open-minded co-pilots’, who are open to autonomous driving on the condition that they can resume control at any time.

“This study is more than just a welcome addition to our knowledge about the phenomenon of autonomous driving,” said Dr Luciano Floridi, professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information and director of the Digital Ethics Lab, University of Oxford, and member of the scientific network of the initiative “&Audi”.

“It is a necessary step for any policy- and law-making decision, as well as any R&D and business strategy that intends to be proactive and informed in delivering a better world.”


‘Emotional landscape’ for autonomous driving

As part of its research, conducted with market research institute Ipsos, Audi also explored the ‘emotional landscape’ for autonomous driving. Internationally, it found strong interest in (82%) and curiosity about (62%) autonomous driving, with respondents seeing the potential for driverless cars to offer easier access to mobility, greater convenience and improved safety.

However, respondents also fear the loss of control (70%) in an autonomous vehicle and worry about unavoidable residual risks (66%). Those questioned were also suspicious of (41%) and anxious about (38%) the technology. Participants were most willing to hand over control to an autonomous vehicle for parking duties and in highway traffic jams.

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Autonomous driving and sociodemographics

The study also looked at the link between attitudes to autonomous driving and sociodemographics, creating what it calls a human readiness index (HRI). The index shows that the younger the respondents and the higher their level of education and income, the more positive their attitude to autonomous driving.

Researchers also explored differences between the nine countries from which respondents were drawn. They found that the Chinese are ‘euphoric’ about autonomous driving and the South Koreans have an above-average positive view of the technology. The Spanish and Italians were the most positive European nations to take part, while the Germans and French were a bit more reserved, as were the Americans, Japanese and British.

“Automated and autonomous driving has the potential to improve our mobility substantially,” said Thomas Müller, head of Automated Driving at Audi.

“On the way there, alongside technical development, it is of decisive importance to convince people. The study provides us with differentiated insights about where people stand in relation to autonomous driving and how we can establish suitable expectations about the new technology in society.”