Consumers have become more aware of self-driving cars, but they are less accepting of the technology, according to a new study on autonomous vehicles.
In the 2018 Cox Automotive Evolution of Mobility Study: Autonomous Vehicles, 84% of survey respondents want the ability to drive themselves even if they have a self-driving vehicle, while 16% would be comfortable letting an autonomous vehicle drive them without the ability to take control of the vehicle. Over the past two years, the number of respondents who believe roads would be safer if all vehicles were self-driving vehicles has fallen 18 percentage points.
“As awareness around the development of autonomous technology increases, we’re seeing some dramatic shifts in consumer sentiment,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. “People now have a deeper understanding of the complexities involved when creating a self-driving car, and that has them reconsidering their comfort level when it comes to handing over control.”
Respondents see self-driving vehicles as less safe, compared to two years ago, with the vehicle autonomy preference shifting from Level 4 to Level 2 — which is the level available in most new vehicles. The Society of Automotive Engineers recognizes five levels of vehicle autonomy, ranging from Level 0 (human-only control) to Level 5 (no human control).
In a similar study in 2016, when consumers were asked which level they preferred, they favored Level 4 autonomy, which provides all the benefits of a self-driving vehicle but without removing the ability for human control. Now, nearly half of consumers said they would never buy a Level 5 vehicle, up from 30% in 2016. By generation, 48% of Generation Z respondents (12 to 22 year olds) and 39% of Millennial respondents (23 to 36 year olds) said they would never by a Level 5 vehicle.
Recent high-profile crashes involving self-driving vehicles might have influenced this change, but both those aware and unaware of the crashes believe roads would be safer if all vehicles were operated by people rather than autonomously (54% compared to 55%, respectively), the study shows. Three-fourths of consumers believe self-driving vehicles need “real world testing to be perfected,” but 54% want this testing to take place in a city or town in which they don’t live.