Drivers fear self-driving automobiles

A new report from AAA reveals that most U.S. drivers want autonomous technologies in their next vehicle, but still fear the idea of a fully self-driving car.

Despite car-makers’ promises that autonomous vehicles will be safer, more efficient and more convenient than their human-driven counterparts, three-quarters of U.S. drivers still report feeling afraid to ride in a self-driving car (unchanged from AAA’s 2016 survey) and only 10 percent report that they’d actually feel safer sharing the roads with driverless vehicles.

In Oklahoma, drivers also have serious concerns about autonomous vehicle technology. Though a separate statewide survey, AAA found that:

  • 41 percent of Oklahomans believe autonomous vehicle technologies will result in more crashes. Just 30 percent said they felt these technologies would result in fewer crashes.
  • Only 21 percent believe they will be routinely riding in a self-driving vehicle within 10 years.
  • 86 percent of Oklahoma drivers surveyed expressed concern about the security of data shared by autonomous vehicles.
  • 83 percent of those surveyed think that local and state governments should inform the public about when and where the testing of self-driving vehicles will occur.

“The race is on toward self-driving cars but consumers are proceeding with caution, as well they should,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “AAA is urging the gradual, safe introduction of these technologies to ensure that American drivers are fully prepared for the transition.”

While the national AAA survey shows that a majority are afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, the latest survey also found that the majority (59 percent) of Americans are anxious to have autonomous features in their next vehicle. This marked contrast suggests that American drivers are ready to embrace autonomous technology, but are not yet ready to give up full control.

“U.S. drivers may experience the driver assistance technologies in their cars today and feel they don’t work consistently enough to replace a human driver – and they’re correct,” says Greg Brannon, AAA’s national director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “While these technologies will continue to improve over time, it’s important that consumers understand that today’s systems require your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.”

Additional findings from the National AAA survey include:

  • Half (54 percent) of U.S. drivers feel less safe at the prospect of sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle, while one-third (34 percent) feel it wouldn’t make a difference and only 10 percent say they would feel safer.
  • Women (58 percent) are more likely to feel less safe than men (49 percent).
  • Baby Boomers (60 percent) are more likely to feel less safe than Generation X (56 percent) or Millennials (41 percent)
  • The majority (59 percent) of U.S. drivers want autonomous vehicle technology in their next vehicle, while the remainder do not (25 percent) or are unsure (16 percent).
  • Millennials (70 percent) are the most likely to want the technologies, compared to Generation X (54 percent) and Baby Boomers (51 percent).
  • Three-quarters (78 percent) of Americans are afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle.
  • Baby Boomers (85 percent) are more likely to be afraid than Millennials (73 percent) and Generation X (75 percent) drivers.
  • Women (85 percent) are more likely to be afraid than men (69 percent).

To educate consumers on the effectiveness of emerging vehicle technologies, AAA is committed to the on-going, unbiased testing of automated vehicle technologies. Previous testing of automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology and lane keeping systems has shown both great promise and great variation. This variation may be particularly concerning to consumers, with AAA’s survey revealing that 81 percent of Americans feel that automated vehicle systems should all work similarly and consistently across all vehicle manufacturers.

“Every year, we lose tens of thousands of our friends, family members and neighbors on the nation’s roadways, most often because of human error,” said Mai. “Autonomous technology has the potential to dramatically reduce these numbers. But automakers, government agencies and safety organizations like AAA must continue working together to ensure that these new vehicles are safely tested and deployed.”