Building technology for autonomous vehicles has been growing rapidly in recent times and so has consumer awareness. But it seems trust hasn’t been moving at the same pace, according to a recent study.
While desire for autonomous features is high as well, the 2018 Cox Automotive Evolution of Mobility Study: Autonomous Vehicles, 84 per cent of people want to have the option to drive themselves even in a self-driving vehicle – which means that just 16 per cent of respondents would feel comfortable having an autonomous vehicle drive them without the option of being able to take control.
The study also found that those who believe roadways would be safer if all vehicles were fully autonomous versus operated by people has dropped 18 percentage points in just two years.
“As awareness around the development of autonomous technology increases, we’re seeing some dramatic shifts in consumer sentiment,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. “People now have a deeper understanding of the complexities involved when creating a self-driving car, and that has them reconsidering their comfort level when it comes to handing over control.”
The study also found a shift in the preferred level of autonomy. In 2016, the group found that Level 4 autonomous – which provides all the benefits of a fully autonomous vehicle but still gives the driver the option to take control – was the preferred choice of consumers. Now, Level 2 – which is available in most of today’s new vehicles – is the preferred option.
Further, nearly half of all respondents (49 per cent) said they would never buy a Level 5 (no human control) – that’s up from less than a third (30 per cent). Millennials are less hesitant at 39 per cent.
“People now have a deeper understanding of the complexities involved when creating a self-driving car, and that has them reconsidering their comfort level when it comes to handing over control.”
— Karl Brauer, Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book
Blame for such a shift may be placed at the foot of high-profile accidents involving autonomous vehicles, most notably the fatal autonomous Uber crash saw a woman struck and killed in a Phoenix suburb in March. In that incident, an operator was behind the wheel of the vehicle when the pedestrian was struck late at night. Uber halted all testing – including in Toronto – following the incident.
Cox’s study – which surveyed 1,250 American consumers earlier this year – found that three-quarters of consumers believe self-driving vehicles need real-world testing in order to be perfected. However, more than half (54 per cent) don’t want it happening in their own backyard. They would prefer testing take place in a different town or city from where they live.
Still, consumers want – and expect – semi-autonomous features available in their vehicles. Those centred around safety are most preferred, such as collision warning alert systems and collision avoidance systems rank at the top of must-have features in their next vehicle purchase or lease.
Considering the disconnect here – consumers don’t trust autonomous vehicles but want some of its features in their own cars – there is work to be done to close the gap, according to Joe George, Cox Automotive Mobility Solutions Group president.
“There is a major opportunity, and a real need, for automakers and mobility providers to help educate consumers and further guide autonomous vehicles in their development,” he said. “Autonomous safety feature adoption will be critical in creating future autonomous technology advocates.”