Little appeal for self-driving autos

American consumers may be reluctant to fully embrace a self-driving car and according to a new AAA survey, three out of four U.S. drivers report feeling “afraid” to ride in a self-driving car.
Despite this significant fear, AAA also found that drivers who own vehicles equipped with semi-autonomous features are, on average, 75 percent more likely to trust the technology than those that do not own it, suggesting that gradual experience with these advanced features can ease consumer fears.

“With the rapid advancement towards autonomous vehicles, drivers may be hesitant to give up full control,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “However, government and safety experts estimate that more than 80 percent of today’s crashes could be prevented by autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles.”

While only one-in-five Americans say they would trust an autonomous vehicle to drive itself, AAA’s survey revealed that consumer demand for semi-autonomous vehicle technology is high.

“What Americans may not realize is that the building blocks towards self-driving cars are already in today’s vehicles and the technology is constantly improving and well-trusted by those who have experienced it,” said Mai.

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of American drivers report wanting at least one of these technologies on their next vehicle: automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology or lane-keeping assist.

Among drivers who want semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle, AAA found their primary motivation to be safety (84 percent), followed by convenience (64 percent), reducing stress (46 percent) and wanting the latest technology (30 percent).

  • Baby Boomers are more likely to cite safety as a reason they want semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle (89 percent) than Millennials (78 percent).
  • Millennials are more likely to cite convenience (75 percent) and wanting the latest technology (36 percent) compared to older generations.
  • Women are more likely to cite reducing stress as a reason for wanting the technology (50 percent) than men (42 percent)

Among those who do not want semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle, drivers cite trusting their driving skills more than the technology (84 percent), feeling the technology is too new and unproven (60 percent), not wanting to pay extra for it (57 percent), not knowing enough about the technology (50 percent) and finding it annoying (45 percent) as the top reasons.

  • Millennials (63 percent) and Gen-Xers (62 percent) are more likely to cite not wanting to pay extra for semi-autonomous technology, compared to Baby Boomers (49 percent).
  • One-in-four female drivers (23 percent) cite feeling the technology is too complicated to use as a reason for not wanting the technology in their next vehicle, compared to 12 percent of male drivers.

“While six in 10 drivers want semi-autonomous technology in their next vehicle, there are still 40 percent of Americans who are either undecided or reluctant to purchase these features,” said Mai. “It’s clear that education is the key to addressing consumer hesitation towards these features. AAA’s on-going objective is to evaluate vehicle technologies, highlighting both the benefits and limitations, to help drivers make informed choices.”

In a related study of U.S. police-reported crash data, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety writes in “Status Report,” Jan. 28, 2016, that it found that “systems with automatic braking reduce rear-end crashes by about 40 percent on average, while forward collision warning alone cuts them by 23 percent. The autobrake systems also greatly reduce injury crashes.”