- A new AAA survey found continuing widespread concern about the safety of autonomous vehicles (AVs), with 71% of those surveyed saying they would be afraid to ride in one, slightly lower than the 73% response to the same question in AAA’s survey last year.
- There was slightly higher support for other uses of AVs, with 44% saying they would be comfortable with self-driving vehicles for food or package delivery. Slower-speed applications, such as using self-driving cars as people movers at airports, had 53% support. The AAA survey includes responses from 1,008 phone interviews conducted in January 2019 and has a margin of error of 4%.
- "Despite fears still running high, AAA’s study also shows that Americans are willing to take baby steps toward incorporating this type of technology into their lives,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations, in a statement. “Hands-on exposure in more controlled, low-risk environments coupled with stronger education will play a key role in easing fears about self-driving cars.”
Even as the industry reaches new technological heights, AVs continue to face widespread public concern after multiple high-profile accidents. The biggest PR hit came after an Uber test vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, AZ a year ago, and in May, a Waymo test car crashed in Chandler, AZ when another car swerved toward it. Such incidents reversed what had been a positive trend for the industry; in AAA’s December 2017 survey, fewer than 65% of respondents had expressed concern, but that number jumped 10% after the Uber crash.
Although slower speed applications of AVs had higher support, the survey showed only 19% of people would trust such a car to carry their children or loved ones. The most common reason for concern was that people wouldn’t fully trust driverless cars 10 years from now (53%), and that the technology won’t be ready (34%). A third of those surveyed said road conditions would not be good enough for AVs.
The AAA results line up with other public polls on AV safety. A Deloitte survey released in January found that 50% of U.S. respondents do not believe AVs will be safe — on par with the 47% response from the previous year. An August survey from Cox Automotive found that only 45% believed AVs were safe. These responses have become such a prominent concern that automakers, tech companies and related groups including AAA are collaborating on the Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) education campaign to inform the public on AV technology.