For the second year in a row, three-fourths of American drivers are afraid to ride in self-driving cars, according to a new survey published by AAA.
The statistics come at a time when companies like Google and Uber vie for industry dominance, both by way of manufacturing and advances in technology. Meanwhile, the federal government continues to wrestle with regulatory standards for the fledgling industry.
But talk of competition or regulation may be premature. The bigger issue may be whether the public feels comfortable riding in fully autonomous vehicles at all. Only one in five Americans say they trust an autonomous vehicle to drive itself, an indication that the technology is still far from comprehensible, and the skepticism seems to be a matter of safety. More than half of U.S. drivers (54 percent) feel less safe when considering the prospect of sharing the road with autonomous cars, while only 10 percent of respondents say that they would feel safer.
Vehicles with semi-autonomous features fair better among the public. Sixty-one percent of survey participants indicate that they prefer at least one of several automated technologies to be available in their next car: automatic emergency breaking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology or lane-keeping assist. Still, most Americans trust their driving skills above all else, and 81 percent of those who took the survey believe that the fully automated vehicle features should work universally across all systems.
Other notable statistics from the survey include:
- 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)
Proponents of self-driving cars believe they can reduce, or even eradicate, accidents altogether. Jill Ingrassia, AAA’s managing director of Government Relations and Traffic Safety, noted that 35,000 people die each year because of human-related errors, but that further research is necessary to “ensure that these new vehicles are safely tested and deployed.” Based on the stats, it appears the public requires it.