Most American Drivers Are Leery of Self-Driving Cars

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Automakers and tech companies are racing to develop safe autonomous vehicle technology. But a new survey from AAA, the nation’s largest motoring organization, suggests that the vast majority of American motorists remain leery of self-driving cars: Three out of four respondents said they would be afraid to ride in a car that was driving itself.

Recent news that one of Google’s self-driving Lexus SUVs drove into the side of a bus in California while trying to pass some sandbags (possibly the first time one of the tech company’s autonomous vehicles has been directly responsible for a crash on public roads) has not helped.

More than 80 percent of the drivers who are frightened about being a passenger in a self-driving car said they trust “their driving skills more than the technology” and 60 percent said they believe “the technology is too new and unproven.”

The fear of self-driving cars is especially prevalent in women – 81 percent said they were afraid, compared with 67 percent of men – and among baby boomers — 82 percent of whom said they’d be fearful of riding in a driverless car, compared with 69 percent of younger generations.

“With the rapid advancement towards autonomous vehicles, American drivers may be hesitant to give up full control,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair.

According to the Associated Press, no one was injured when the self-driving Google car mentioned above struck a public bus. The Google car was reportedly going about 2 mph at the time of the crash.

“This type of misunderstanding happens between human drivers on the road every day,” Google said in a written statement. “This is a classic example of the negotiation that’s a normal part of driving — we’re all trying to predict each other’s movements.”

The AAA survey found that motorists who are driving vehicles with semi-autonomous features – like adaptive cruise control and lane deviation correction – are 75 percent more likely to trust the technology.

“What Americans may not realize is that the building blocks towards self-driving cars are already in today’s vehicles and the technology is constantly improving and well-trusted by those who have experienced it,” Nielsen said.

Despite American drivers’ fears about self-driving cars, nearly 60 percent of the 1,800 drivers surveyed by AAA said they want at least one of these features on their next vehicle: automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology or lane-keep assist, which is designed to alert the driver when the system detects that the vehicle is about to leave a traffic lane.

Check out “7 Eye-Opening Truths About Driverless Cars.”

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