Sunday 24th June 2018

New study: 73 percent of Americans ‘too afraid’ to ride in a self-driving car

The latest results of the AAA's study point to a decline in trust across all age groups in America over the safety of self-driving vehicles.
Jason Smith
by on 22nd May 2018

73 percent of Americans are “too afraid” to ride in a self-driving car, according to a survey of 1,014 U.S. citizens published by the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Surprisingly, trust among millennials has declined faster than among any other group. The number of millennials “too afraid” to ride in a fully autonomous self-driving car has increased from 49 percent to 63 percent in the last six months.

The decline in trust is likely a consequence of several high profile incidents that have done little to reassure consumers about the safety of the technology.

Cristina Perez Hesano, a resident of Arizona, was killed earlier this year by a self-driving car operated by Uber. Hesano was crossing the road with a bicycle when she was hit by the vehicle and it was later discovered the back-up driver was looking down and didn’t see Hesano in time to prevent the collision.

Nvidia, Toyota and Uber all put testing of self-driving cars on hold following the fatality.

In response to the incident, Toyota North America Chief Executive Jim Lentz told Reuters, “There will be mistakes from vehicles, from systems, and a hundred or 500 or a thousand people could lose their lives in accidents like we’ve seen in Arizona.

“The big question for government is: How much risk are they willing to take? If you can save net 34,000 lives, are you willing to potentially have 10 or 100 or 500 or 1,000 people die?” said Lentz.

Self-driving cars are currently classified on a scale of 0 to 5 dependent on the level of automation they afford drivers, with 0 being no autonomy and 5 being fully autonomous.

Most cars utilizing automation technology like “driver assistance” are level 2 cars.

The new study from the AAA also found that 63 percent of American consumers would feel less safe walking or riding a bicycle in the presence of self-driving vehicles. Women (83 percent) are also more likely to be afraid than men (63 percent) while Baby Boomer (71 percent) and Generation X (68 percent) drivers are more likely to feel less safe than millennials (48 percent).

According to the AAA’s Director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations, Greg Bannon, “[the survey] results show that any incident involving an autonomous vehicle is likely to shake consumer trust, which is a critical component to the widespread acceptance of autonomous vehicles.”

According data from 2016 and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on average 102 people are killed every day in motor vehicle collision in the United States. Self-driving cars are currently a fraction of all cars in the United States.