The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

75% of U.S. Drivers Fear Self-Driving Cars

March 01, 2016

Photo courtesy of AAA.
Photo courtesy of AAA.

Three out of four U.S. drivers report feeling “afraid” to ride in a self-driving car, according to a new survey from AAA.

Baby Boomers (82%) are more likely to be afraid to allow an autonomous vehicle to drive itself with them in it than younger generations (69%), the survey also found. Additionally, women (81%) are more likely than men (67%) to fear riding in a self-driving car.

With today’s heightened focus on autonomous vehicles, this fear poses a potential concern to the automotive industry, AAA noted.

But the survey also revealed that drivers with vehicles equipped with semi-autonomous features are, on average, 75% more likely to trust the technology than those who don’t have it. This suggests that gradual experience with these advanced features can ease those apprehensions, AAA said.

Drivers who have lane-departure warning/lane keep assist overwhelmingly trust it more than drivers who don’t have the feature (84% vs. 50%). With adaptive cruise control (73% vs. 47%) and automatic emergency braking (71% vs. 44%), the trust gaps are a little smaller.

“With the rapid advancement towards autonomous vehicles, American drivers may be hesitant to give up full control,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair. “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.”

While only one in five Americans said they would trust an autonomous vehicle to drive itself, AAA’s survey revealed that demand for semi-autonomous vehicle technology is high. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of American drivers reported wanting at least one of the following technologies on their next vehicle: automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology or lane-keeping assist.

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

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

AAA’s survey also offered insights into why many Americans shy away from advanced vehicle technology. Among those who don't want semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle, drivers cited trusting their driving skills more than the technology (84%), feeling the technology is too new and unproven (60%), not wanting to pay extra for it (57%), not knowing enough about the technology (50%) and finding it annoying (45%) as the top reasons.

Millennials (63%) and Gen-Xers (62%) were more likely to cite not wanting to pay extra for semi-autonomous technology, compared to Baby Boomers (49%).

One in four female drivers (23%) cited feeling the technology is too complicated to use as a reason for not wanting the technology in their next vehicle, compared to 12% of male drivers.

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

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