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21 Aug 18

Self-driving car acceptance plummeting

They're coming, but do we want them? According to a study from Cox Automotive (Evolution of Mobility: Autonomous Vehicles), consumer awareness of driverless vehicles may have skyrocketed, but acceptance of self-driving cars has plummeted.

The study found that 84% of the 1,250 consumers surveyed by Vital Findings still want the option to drive themselves. Only 16% said they would feel comfortable letting an autonomous vehicle drive without the option of taking control.

When asked whether roads would be safer if all vehicles were fully autonomous, only 45% of respondents agreed, compared to 63% in 2016 - an 18% drop in two years. Similarly, nearly half would never buy a level 5 autonomous vehicle (49% in 2018, 30% in 2016).

The drop in acceptance may be related to the Uber self-driving incident, 61% of respondents being aware of the accident that occurred in Arizona in March 2018. On a related note, 58% of respondents associate the Uber brand with the incident and only 6% link it to Volvo.

Respondents did not agree on who should be responsible in case of accidents, with about a quarter saying it should be the software developer (27%), the OEM (26%) or the vehicle rider/owner (24%).

Desire for autonomous features

Despite these disheartening figures, the desire for autonomous features is strong and growing. These are just some features respondents would like to have in their next vehicle:

Feature Must have Nice to have Total
Collision warning alert system 23% 65% 88%
Collision avoidance system 23% 63% 86%
Adaptive headlights 16% 66% 82%
Lane keeping assist 15% 64% 79%
360-degree camera 14% 64% 78%
Adaptive cruise control 18% 60% 78%
Active parking assist 12% 57% 69%

Respondents also agree that new technology makes better drivers (54% agree).

“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,” said Joe George, president of Cox Automotive’s mobility solutions group. “Autonomous safety feature adoption will be critical in creating future autonomous technology advocates.”

Commenting on the report, Tal Ater, CTO of DAV, a company that developed a platform enabling vehicles to communicate with one another, said: “If we want autonomous vehicles to be as safe as possible we need them to learn about more and more different scenarios. If a car from one driverless car firm witnesses a freak accident such as a container falling off a lorry, that firm's cars may know how to handle such situations in the future, but cars from other firms won’t have that insight. We therefore need more data sharing between vehicles and operators – in the form of an open marketplace where vehicles can buy and sell their data. This will not only benefit our communities by creating safer roads, but also the car companies themselves by accelerating the pace of development.”

Image: Waymo self-driving car performing tests on the road near Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, August 2018

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck