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Self-Driving Cars: Trust May Be a Bigger Hurdle Than Technology

Afraid to put your trust in self-driving cars? If so, you aren’t alone. According to a survey conducted by the nonprofit motoring organization AAA, only one out of five people would trust a car to totally drive itself with them in it. Moreover, three out of four people admitted to being afraid to ride in self-driving cars.

The reasons for this anxiety are all over the map, but fear of the unknown seems to play a major role. People who own cars with some semi-autonomous features, such as adaptive cruise control and forward-emergency braking, are 75 percent more likely to trust autonomous technology than those who have never experienced it, says AAA.

Despite the apparent widespread suspicion about self-driving or autonomous vehicles (AVs), a majority of consumers are comfortable with some semi-autonomous features, and nearly two thirds of those surveyed admitted to wanting at least one semi-autonomous feature on their next car. Lane-keep assist (41 percent), adaptive cruise control (40 percent), automatic emergency braking (39 percent) and self-parking technology (25 percent) were the most commonly lusted-after features among survey respondents who expressed a desire for semi-autonomous technology in a future car.

The Whys

When pressed for reasons for resisting self-driving technologies, survey respondents offered up an array of reasons. The most common objections were as follows:

  • They trust their own driving skills more than technology (84 percent).
  • The technology is too new and unproven (60 percent).
  • The technology is expensive (57 percent).
  • The technology is annoying (45 percent).

Venus and Mars

On average, women and men view AVs and semi-autonomous technologies differently. Why? Who knows, but men are more likely to embrace AVs and the current crop of self-driving technologies more readily than women.

  • Women are almost twice as likely as men (23 percent vs. 12 percent) to cite complexity of operation as a reason not to adopt a semi-autonomous feature.
  • Women are less likely than men (35 percent vs. 42 percent) to want automatic emergency braking on their next car.
  • Women are less likely than men (36 percent vs. 44 percent) to want adaptive cruise control on a future car.
  • Women are more likely than men (50 percent vs. 42 percent) to name stress reduction as a reason for wanting semi-autonomous technology in their car.

Generation Gap

Not surprisingly, millennials are more willing to accept self-driving technologies and AVs than older generations. Raised with computer games and smartphones, technology isn’t quite the mystery for them that it is for baby boomers or even those from Generation X.

  • Baby boomers are more likely than younger generations (82 percent vs. 69 percent) to be afraid to ride in an AV.
  • Millennials are the age group most likely (33 percent vs. 22 percent of baby boomers and 20 percent of Gen X drivers) to want self-parking technology in their next vehicle.
  • Millennials are most likely (45 percent vs. 37 percent of Gen X drivers and 34 percent of baby boomers) to want adaptive cruise control on their next car.
  • Millennials and Gen X drivers (64 percent and 63 percent) are more likely than baby boomers (49 percent) to cite extra cost as a reason for not wanting semi-autonomous technology on their next vehicle.

What It Means

When talking about self-driving cars, most experts point out the technological and logistical hurdles as the primary reasons why AVs are probably still years if not decades away; little consideration is given to the human factor. But it looks like selling the public on turning over the reins of their vehicles to computers may be a much bigger hill to climb than anyone thought.

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More about Russ Heaps

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