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AAA survey: most US drivers fear self-driving vehicles

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AAA’s latest autonomous vehicle survey shows most U.S. drivers express either fear (66%) or uncertainty (25%) about fully-self-driving vehicles.

However, semi-autonomous technologies such as reverse automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance continue to drive consumer interest.

“There has been an increase in consumer fear over the past few years,” Director of Automotive Engineering Research for AAA Greg Brannon said in a statement. “Given the numerous and well-publicized incidents involving current vehicle technologies – it’s not surprising that people are apprehensive about their safety.”

The survey found almost two-thirds of U.S. drivers would want reverse automatic emergency braking (65%), automatic emergency braking (63%) or lane keeping assistance (62%) on their next vehicle.

The company said U.S. drivers also believe AEB will stop the vehicle when another car, children, adult pedestrians,or bicyclists are in front of or behind the vehicle.

However, recent AAA research found reverse AEB systems prevented a collision in only one of 40 test runs in the context of the backing-up scenarios involving a subject vehicle crossing behind the test vehicle and only 10 out of 20 test runs with the stationary child target behind the test vehicle.

The company advocates for advanced vehicle safety technology to enhance driver awareness instead of replacing the driver.

When asked if there are cars available that drive themselves while you sleep – fully self-driving vehicles are not yet available for purchase by consumers – four in 10 drivers are unsure or think they can buy a car that drives itself while they sleep, a significant safety concern of these technologies.

“AAA wants to collaborate with automakers to establish uniformity in system naming and performance across the industry,” Brannon said. “By working together, we can assist consumers in understanding the technology present in their vehicles and educate them on how, when and where to use such systems properly. This initiative will help instill confidence in the drivers of the cars of tomorrow, which may be equipped with greater levels of automated technologies.”

The survey was conducted Jan. 11-16, using a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population overall. The panel provides sample coverage of about 97% of the U.S. household population.

A total of 1,220 interviews were completed among U.S. adults, 18 years of age or older, of which 1,010 qualified for the study. The margin of error for the study overall is 4.1% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups have larger error margins.