DETROIT—Consumers remain skeptical of autonomous vehicles.
In a survey by J.D. Power and Associates and Detroit-based law firm Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone P.L.C. released March 21, 46 percent of the 1,500 respondents said they "definitely" or "probably" would not ride in a fully self driving car—a vehicle without a driver, steering wheel or gas pedals.
The survey was released the same week a self-driving Uber SUV struck a pedestrian in Arizona, resulting in the first death involving an autonomous vehicle.
Despite projections that autonomous vehicles could reduce traffic accidents by 90 percent, consumers are suspicious of technology failures, the "Automated Vehicles: Liability Crash Course" survey revealed. Moreover, the respondents who are skittish about self-driving technology largely weren't swayed reassurance that the vehicles would meet federal safety standards, with 78 percent of those respondents saying they still would not ride in an autonomous vehicle.
This week's accident in Tempe, Ariz., likely won't ease that concern. A self-driving Uber Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicle killed 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg as she crossed the street with her bicycle Sunday night, according to the Tempe Police Department.
Though the vehicle was operating in autonomous mode, a driver was present in the front seat. Tempe police said Monday based on footage retrieved from the car, it's unlikely the SUV driver could have avoided hitting the pedestrian.
It's unclear whether any litigation will arise from the accident, but many respondents would sue over accidents involving fully autonomous vehicles, according to the J.D. Power/Miller Canfield survey.
More than half the respondents said they would sue an auto maker of a fully autonomous vehicle (one without a driver present) if it was involved in a crash that caused injury.
Potentially troubling for car makers is that the younger people, those most likely to use autonomous vehicles in the future, said they'd seek litigation more often than older generations—62 percent of Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2014, said they would pursue litigation, compared with just 53 percent of Baby Boomers.
"Sentiment remains fragile towards automated vehicles as consumers are cautious and the need to build trust continues," Kristin Kolodge, executive director of human machine interface at J.D. Power and co-author of the report, said in a press release. "Consumers express an expectation that collisions would not occur with automated vehicles and are holding ADS to a higher safety standard than traditional vehicles."
In a positive sign for the industry, 74 percent of respondents indicated they would share data from the vehicles after an accident, providing auto makers and suppliers opportunities to prevent similar malfunctions in the future, the study concluded.