How Americans feel about self-driving cars

The American attitudes toward fully self-driving cars still lie with uncertainty and fear after the past year being filled with high-profile automated vehicle incidents. AAA’s annual automated vehicle survey found that 71% of people are afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles. They believe the key to helping consumers feel more comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles will bridge the gap between the perception of automated vehicle technology and the reality of how it actually works in the cars of today’s day and age.

“Consumers should educate themselves concerning automated vehicle technology to fully understand the pros and cons,” said Montrae Waiters, spokeswoman, AAA - The Auto Club Group. “Technology will continue to shape the future of transportation, but motorists still have the responsibility to remain engaged.”

A key role that impacts how drivers feel about automated vehicle technology is experience. Many cars are equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which are considered the building blocks for fully self-driving vehicles. The survey from AAA revealed that regular interaction with ADAS components like lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and self-parking improves consumer comfort levels. On average if a driver has one of the four ADAS technologies, they are 68% more likely to trust these features than drivers who do not have them.

AAA additionally found that Americans are receptive to the idea of automated vehicle technology in more limited applications. 53% of people are more comfortable with low-speed, short distance forms of transportation like people movers found at airports or theme parks while 44% are comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles for delivery of food or packages. However, once the passengers become more personal (in particular, transporting their loved ones), only one in five remain comfortable.

Currently, more than half of Americans (55%) think that by 2029, most cars will have the ability to drive themselves. The timeline is overly optimistic given the number of vehicles already on the road today. The most commons reasons for their skepticism include lack of trust, not wanting to give up driving, the technology won’t be ready and that road conditions will not be good enough to support the technology.

Overall, experts agree that a fully self-driving fleet of vehicles is still decades away, it is likely that more highly automated cars will be on the roads in the upcoming years. A multitude of drivers understand both the benefits and limitations of the technology that is currently available. AAA does believe that people will be more receptive and prepared for the experience of riding in a fully automated vehicle when the time and technology are there.

*Previous research includes ADAS technology naming, testing of driver support systems and the annual automated vehicle survey (2016, 2017,January 2018 and April 2018).

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, financial services and travel offerings to over 9.8 million members across eleven states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 59 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. Visit AAA on the Internet at AAA.com.