Survey shows three-quarters of Americans afraid of fully self-driving vehicles

American attitudes towards fully self-driving cars have not rebounded since a number of high-profile automated vehicle incidents last year, according to new research.

AAA’s annual automated vehicle survey found that nearly three-quarters of people (71%) would be afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle. Before last year’s incidents, just under two-thirds of those questioned said the same thing.

“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.

Bridging the gap between people’s perceptions of automated technology and the reality of how it works in today’s cars will be key to helping consumers feel more comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles, believes the AAA.

“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,” said Brannon.

Although the survey found that people aren’t yet comfortable with the idea of fully self-driving vehicles, many drivers are already interacting with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in their vehicles, which significantly improves their comfort level with these technologies.

Around two-thirds of drivers (68%) who have one of four key ADAS technologies – lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and self-parking – were more likely to trust these features than drivers who don’t have them.

“Americans are willing to take baby steps toward incorporating this type of technology into their lives”

Greg Brannon, AAA

Americans were also receptive to the idea of certain types of automated vehicle transportation, with just over half of those questioned (53%) saying they would be comfortable with low-speed, short distance rides, such as people movers at airports.

In addition, almost half of respondents (44%) are comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles for food or package delivery.

“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,” said Brannon.

“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.”

The findings come on top of recent Auto Trader research, which found that despite driver support for semi-autonomous features, the majority of consumers are not yet ready for fully autonomous vehicles.

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