Drivers Less Afraid of Self-Driving Cars

AAA study finds that more Americans are willing to ride in fully self-driving vehicles.
January 25, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. – American drivers are beginning to embrace self-driving vehicles, according to a new study from AAA. The annual survey reveals that 63% of U.S. drivers report feeling afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, a significant decrease from 78% in early 2017. Millennial and male drivers are the most trusting of autonomous technologies, with only half reporting they would be afraid to ride in a self-driving car. To ensure that American drivers continue to be informed, prepared and comfortable with this shift in mobility, AAA urges automakers to prioritize consumer education.

"Americans are starting to feel more comfortable with the idea of self-driving vehicles,” AAA Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations Director Greg Brannon said in a press release. “Compared to just a year ago, AAA found that 20 million more U.S. drivers would trust a self-driving vehicle to take them for a ride.”

While riding in a fully self-driving vehicle is a futuristic concept for most, testing of these vehicles in the United States means that sharing the road with an automated vehicle is an increasing near-term possibility. In this situation, drivers remain leery of self-driving vehicles. In AAA’s survey, only 13% of U.S. drivers report that they would feel safer sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle while nearly half (46%) would actually feel less safe. Others say they are indifferent (37%) or unsure (4%).

Additional survey results include:

  • Women (73%) are more likely than men (52%) to be afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle, and more likely to feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving car (55% versus 36%).
  • Millennials are the most trusting of self-driving vehicles, with only 49% (down from 73%) reporting that they would be afraid to ride in a self-driving car. While most baby boomers (68%) still report being afraid to ride in a self-driving car, this generation is significantly more comfortable with the idea than they were a year ago, when 85% reported being afraid.
  • Baby boomers (54%) and Gen X (47%) drivers are more likely than millennial drivers (34%) to feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving car.

Although fears of self-driving vehicles appear to be easing, U.S. drivers report high confidence in their own driving abilities. Despite the fact that more than 9% of crashes are the result of human error, three-quarters (73%) of U.S. drivers consider themselves better-than-average drivers. Men, in particular, are confident in their driving skills with 8 in 10 considering their driving skills better than average.

“AAA found that American drivers are very confident in their driving abilities, which may explain some hesitation to give up full control to a self-driving vehicle,” Brannon said. “Education, exposure and experience will likely help ease consumer fears as we steer toward a more automated future.”

AAA’s survey echoes similar consumer sentiments about accepting autonomous vehicle technology found in Deloitte’s Future of Mobility research, presented at the 2017 Fuels Institute Annual Meeting.

“Consumers only want to buy one advanced technology at a time,” said Ryan Robinson, associate director of research at Deloitte Canada. “They want to get used to using it before jumping totally in. And that’s how we think autonomy will eventually get into the market: through incremental steps that get consumers used to the technology.”

However, Deloitte’s research suggests that although consumers may be interested in new vehicle technologies like autonomous, they aren’t willing to pay for it. Robinson said that some consumers are not willing to pay a dime to access advanced technologies, with the expectation that in time, these new innovations will simply be built into new vehicles.