23 avr 19

American consumers don’t trust self-driving vehicles

Half of Americans are convinced self-driving cars are more dangerous than traditional cars. Nearly two-thirds of Americans would never buy a fully autonomous car. Those are some results of a survey by Reuters and Ipsos.

In the same poll, about 63% of those who responded said they would not pay more to have self-driving features on their vehicle and 41% said they would not pay more than $2,000.


For companies investing in autonomous driving technology, these results are disheartening. At the same time, it is very likely consumers will embrace self-driving cars once regulation or higher insurance premiums for traditional cars make them more appealing.

The findings are similar to those in a 2018 Reuters/Ipsos poll. Nevertheless, researchers point out few US residents have seen or ridden in a self-driving vehicle, and experts say suspicion of unknown technology can give way to acceptance once it becomes more familiar.

Human error

In spite of consumer scepticism around self-driving cars, data indicates cars driven by computers are safer than traditional cars with a human driver at the controls. Researchers agree than most accidents are caused by human error. An NHTSA study found that no less than 94% of all car accidents are attributable to the human element.

What’s more, most car accidents involving self-driving cars are also caused by humans. In a study of vehicle incident reports in California, Axios found that humans were at fault in the vast majority of accidents that occurred on the roads. The study, which spans from 2014 to 2018, found that 38 incidents occurred while the self-driving cars were moving. In all but one of those cases, the accidents were caused by humans.

Tesla Autopilot

Another problem with regard to self-driving cars is people being overly confident and reliant on technology of today. Several drivers have lost their lives after their Tesla crashed because they were not ready to intervene once their vehicle’s Autopilot was unable to cope with traffic. However, Tesla Autopilot is not a self-driving feature, it is merely a driver assistance system that requires drivers to be able to take control of their vehicle at all times.

AV readiness

It is generally believed that traffic will indeed be much safer once more, or most, cars on the road are self-driving. The human element, though, will always remain the biggest problem. Indeed, in three accident reports in the aforementioned Axios study, humans were found to have attacked or climbed atop the self-driving cars.

Places with high numbers of pedestrians and cyclists, who often behave erratically, are also challenging for self-driving cars. A recent KPMG study on AV readiness found that the Netherlands scores extremely well on AV readiness, but warned cyclists will prove to be an obstacle for large-scale AV deployment.

Also read our report on Tesla’s claims it will have its first robotaxi ready by next year, including an overview of the 5 levels of self-driving.

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck