Survey: 3/4 Americans think driverless cars aren’t ready

According to a survey of 1,200 adults across the U.S. by Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) earlier this year, nearly three-quarters of Americans said self-driving cars were not ready for the golden age, with 48 percent saying they would never take a self-driving taxi.

Survey: 3/4 Americans think driverless cars aren't ready

The possible reason for this hesitation is an unfamiliarity with technology and confusion about the definition of driverless cars.

PAVE is an alliance of industry, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions that educate smovers and decision makers on autonomous vehicles (AVs) and their technologies. The agency surveyed 1,200 Americans between February 27 and March 5, and official results were released this week. Of the 1,200 respondents surveyed, 678 were asked if they had cars equipped with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

PAVE said the findings show that self-driving car technology, as well as automakers and research and development personnel, face serious cognitive challenges. In addition to being seen as “not ready for the golden age,” only 34 percent of respondents said the advantages of autonomous driving outweighed any potential disadvantages.

One might be tempted to point the finger at WHAT PAVE calls “concrete examples of negative publicity surrounding autonomous driving”, but that doesn’t seem to be the culprit. The group noted that a majority of respondents said they knew little or little about the fatal accident in Uber-Trump in 2018 or the recent Tesla Autopilot-related accident. That said, the root of the problem seems to be that people don’t understand it at all.

Survey: 3/4 Americans think driverless cars aren't ready

Typically, the less confident respondents were that they were more likely to join the group of “never get in a self-driving taxi or internet car.” Interestingly, 60 per cent of respondents said they would have a greater sense of trust if they “better understood how the technology works”. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they would have more trust if they “had the opportunity to experience a self-driving journey firsthand.” Since the technology is still in its early stages, legal provisions in only 29 U.S. states may allow for self-driving testing. PAVE believes that educating the public about autonomous driving is key to closing the gap.

All in all, respondents seem to be more interested in supporting human drivers’ assistance systems, which always have complete control over the vehicle. Similarly, drivers who report vehicles with ADAS features such as active parking assistance, head-up display or lane-keeping assistance are generally more responsive to problems with autonomous driving and ADAS technology. Eighty-two percent of drivers said they knew a lot about their safety technology, and 75 percent said they were interested in the new features of the next generation of cars.

However, drivers may be overconfident about the technology because they think they’ve seen self-driving cars on the market. In response, PAVE shared a very disturbing finding that 19 percent of respondents thought it was possible to “own a full driverless car today” and 26 percent said they were “not sure.” Owners of cars with more advanced features, such as remote parking or automatic emergency braking, are more likely to mistakenly believe that self-driving cars are currently on sale.

In addition, PAVE seems to think that some drivers may have lied about ADAS usage or did not know what type of functionality their car has. The report found that 38 percent of respondents said their vehicles were equipped with adaptive cruise control, compared with the fact that only 12 percent of new cars sold in 2018 were equipped with the feature. Interestingly, 39% of respondents were confused about the various names of advanced security features. New and upcoming automatic secondary systems, such as the Super Cruise, which is seen as self-driving cars by untrained people, could further confuse drivers. In response, the group again warned of the need to send a clearer message and educate drivers.

Survey: 3/4 Americans think driverless cars aren't ready

PAVE also surveyed 200 other adults with disabilities and mobility problems, and found that they had a slightly better attitude toward self-driving technology than the general public. This group is more likely to agree that the advantages of the technology outweigh any potential disadvantages, that they have a slightly higher understanding of self-driving cars and how they work, and that they are more likely than larger groups to be early adopters of self-driving cars. That makes perfect sense: for years, carmakers such as Toyota have been touting the benefits of driverless cars and robotics for the disabled and the elderly. Still, these people are generally cautious.