ORLANDO, Fla.—More than two-thirds of Americans of driving age are afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles, according to information gathered by AAA Inc., reflecting a number of high-profile automated vehicle incidents in the past year.
"Automated vehicle technology is evolving on a very public stage and, as a result, it is affecting how consumers feel about it," Greg Brannon, AAA's director of automotive engineering and industry relations, said.
"Having the opportunity to interact with partially or fully automated vehicle technology will help remove some of the mystery for consumers and open the door for greater acceptance."
Experience seems to play a key role in impacting how drivers feel about automated vehicle technology, AAA said. Many cars on the road today are equipped with advanced driver assistance systems, which are considered the building blocks for fully self-driving vehicles.
AAA's survey revealed that regular interaction with ADAS components such as lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and self-parking improves consumer comfort level "significantly." On average, drivers who have one of these four ADAS technologies are about 68 percent more likely to trust these features than drivers who don't have them, AAA said.
AAA also found that Americans are receptive to the idea of automated vehicle technology in more limited applications. About half (53 percent) are comfortable with low-speed, short distance forms of transportation like people movers found at airports or theme parks, while 44 percent are comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles for delivery of food or packages.
However, once the passengers become more personal—in particular, transporting their loved ones—one in five remains comfortable.
"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," Brannon added. "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."
According to AAA's annual automated vehicle survey, 71 percent of people expressed fear at the prospect of riding in fully self-driving vehicles, up from 63 percent in AAA's previous survey on the topic.
AAA said it believes the key to helping consumers feel more comfortable with fully self-driving vehicles will be bridging the gap between the perception of automated vehicle technology and the reality of how it actually works in today's cars.
The AAA's telephone omnibus survey was conducted Jan 10-13, comprising 1,008 interviews with adults, 18 years of age or older.