Americans Are More Afraid Of Self-Driving Cars Than Ever Before

Autonomous Car

Recent fatal crashes has made the public less likely to ride in a self-driving car according to a new AAA study.

The recent spate of crashes involving self-driving cars like the fatal accident in which a fully autonomous Uber test car killed a pedestrian has unsurprisingly made Americans even less trusting of the technology. According to a new study by AAA assessing the public perception of self-driving cars, 73 percent of Americans would be too afraid to ride in one – that’s up by 10 percent since AAA’s survey conducted last year. 63 percent of respondents also said they would feel less safe as a pedestrian or cyclist on the road with self-driving cars roaming the streets.

Surprisingly, tech-savvy millennials were even less confident about riding in an autonomous car. According to the study, the percentage of younger drivers too afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle jumped from 49 percent to 64 percent, representing the largest increase of any generation surveyed. “Despite their potential to make our roads safer in the long run, consumers have high expectations for safety,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Our results show that any incident involving an autonomous vehicle is likely to shake consumer trust, which is a critical component to the widespread acceptance of autonomous vehicles.”

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Brannon is referring to the fatal crash that happened in Arizona back in March, when an Uber self-driving taxi struck pedestrian Elaine Herzberg when she was crossing the street at night while pushing a bicycle. Unfortunately, there’s always going to be a risk of an accident when companies test unproven technology, but AAA believes there should be stricter rules for testing self-driving cars. “To ease fears, there must be safeguards in place to protect vehicle occupants and the motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians with whom they share the road,” said Megan Foster, AAA's director of federal affairs.

Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autpilot system has also been blamed for several fatal crashes in recent years. Autpilot and other safety assists are often mistakenly labelled as fully autonomous driving technology by consumers and the media. "There are sometimes dozens of different marketing names for today's safety systems," Brannon said. "Learning how to operate a vehicle equipped with semi-autonomous technology is challenging enough without having to decipher the equipment list and corresponding level of autonomy."

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