Most Drivers Fear Self-Driving Cars

Drivers are increasingly unsure about autonomous technology in cars. They fear the car taking control away from them and prefer to drive themselves. A recent AAA automated vehicle survey show that while there is still a high level of interest in partially-automated vehicle technology, attitudes toward fully self-driving vehicles have become increasingly apprehensive. Consumers like the safety features but are not ready to give up complete control.

This year there was a major increase in surveyed drivers who are afraid, rising from 55% in 2022 to 68% in 2023. This is a 13% jump from last year’s survey and the biggest increase since 2020. AAA believes automakers must be diligent in creating an environment that promotes the use of more advanced vehicle technologies in a secure, reliable, and educational manner. This includes the consistent naming of vehicle systems available to consumers. All the three-letter acronyms and different descriptions for the same features from different manufacturers make it even more confusing.

Does this surprise you?

As manufacturers develop more safety advancements, they still need to build public trust and knowledge surrounding emerging vehicle technology. There is also a need to dispel confusion around automated or self driving vehicles. AAA’s survey found that nearly one in ten drivers believe they can buy a vehicle that drives itself while they sleep, today! Currently, there is no such vehicle available for purchase by the public that would allow someone to fully disengage from the task of driving. That includes Tesla with is Auto Pilot software.

This perception could stem from misleading or confusing names of vehicle systems that areon the market. AAA found that 22% of Americans expect driver support systems, with names like Autopilot, ProPILOT, or Pilot Assist, to have the ability to drive the car by itself without any supervision, indicating a gap in consumer understanding.

Just to clarify, full self-driving vehicles are capable of operating without human involvement. A human driver is not required to control the vehicle at any time, nor required to be present in the vehicle while moving. These vehicles are not available for purchase by consumers and are classified asLevel 5 automation as defined by the SAE. 

Consumers are not entirely opposed to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) advanced vehicle technology. In fact, six in 10 U.S. drivers would “definitely” or “probably” want these systems in their next car purchase.

Examples of ADAS include blind spot warning, cross traffic alert, lane change departure, pedestrian alerts, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking. Many consumers are confused with all the three-letter acronyms, and each brand has their own terms. Having standardized acronyms would help drivers know what each technology is and how to use it, making it consistent and easy-to-understand.

As of today we are at Level 2 automation. This means that Active Driving Assistance (ADA) combines the tasks of braking, accelerating, and steering through the combined use of adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance. ADA is classified as Level 2 automation — the highest level of vehicle automation available for purchase by the public. This technology is not meant to replace you as the driver or your attention. Recent AAA research has found inconsistencies with ADA performance, reinforcing the need for a driver to remain fully engaged.

Are you ready for self driving vehicles? Do you want one? Remember this means no pedals and no steering wheel. Personally, I call this an amusement ride. The only way full self driving works is if every car on the road has connectivity and is self driving. I can imagine that happening for many decades or more.

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