Study: 3 of 4 people are afraid of self-driving cars

March 15, 2019

The results of a study published Thursday indicate that automakers have ground to cover when it comes to making Americans comfortable with self-driving cars. Three out of four surveyed in the U.S. are afraid to ride in a completely self-driving vehicle and that fear is climbing, AAA found.

AAA found that 71 percent of those it surveyed said they are afraid of fully autonomous vehicles compared to 63 percent in its last study. The previous study occurred before an Uber self-driving test vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian at night in Arizona. 

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AAA said the biggest factor to reduce anxiety is to have more people experience self-driving cars and advanced driver assistance systems such as automatic emergency braking and active lane control. The study showed 68 percent of Americans are more likely to trust these systems if they're equipped on their personal vehicle. Active safety tech is a stepping stone to fully self-driving cars.

The public is also more receptive to the idea of using self-driving cars on a smaller scale. The latest study presented an option for slow-moving people movers, such as vehicles inside airports or theme parks. Just over half of those surveyed (53 percent) said they are comfortable with such technology. Another 44 percent said self-driving vehicles delivering food or packages would be fine. As soon as a self-driving vehicle's cargo becomes personal—transporting family members, for instance—only one in five said they are comfortable with the technology.

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Others surveyed said they thought self-driving cars would have a tougher time proliferating due to road conditions and cited the lack of trust among drivers.

As for the future of self-driving cars, the majority of surveyed Americans believed we'll see most cars with the full ability to drive themselves by 2029. AAA cautioned this could be an optimistic timeline and said it will be decades before we see a fleet of self-driving cars really take over the roads. 

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