Today’s Vehicle Technology Must Walk So Self-Driving Cars Can Run

Feb 24, 2021

Drivers say improving vehicle safety systems takes priority over developing self-driving cars

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Automakers may already hold the key to improving public acceptance of self-driving cars: fine-tuning existing vehicle technology. AAA’s annual automated vehicle survey finds that only 22% of people feel manufacturers should focus on developing self-driving vehicles. The majority of drivers (80%) say they want current vehicle safety systems, like automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance, to work better and more than half—58%—said they want these systems in their next vehicle. These findings signal that people are open to more sophisticated vehicle technology, which if they provide positive experiences for drivers, will open the road to self-driving vehicle acceptance.

“People are ready to embrace new vehicle technology, especially if it will make driving safer,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations. “Consumers are clear about what they want and if automakers seize the opportunity to provide a better experience now, it will pave the way for the vehicles of tomorrow.”

Nearly 96% of 2020 vehicle models came equipped with at least one advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) such as automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning or lane keeping assistance. Consumers who buy new will likely have at least one type of vehicle safety system and in many cases, this could be their first interaction with more advanced vehicle technology. Previous AAA research has found that some systems, particularly those that provide the highest level of automation available to the public, do not always work as expected. These negative experiences could influence driver opinion of future vehicle automation. It also reinforces the need for manufacturers to continue to hone vehicle technology by expanding testing and focusing on including more real-world scenarios encountered by drivers.

Still Lukewarm about Self-Driving Technology
For 6 years, AAA’s annual automated vehicle survey has gauged consumer sentiment regarding emerging vehicle technology, focusing on self-driving vehicles. While American’s interest in owning a car with more advanced technology grows, they are still struggling to warm up to the idea of full vehicle automation. AAA’s survey found that 14% of drivers would trust riding in a vehicle that drives itself, similar to last year’s results. However, 86% either said they would be afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle (54%) or are unsure about it (32%).

COVID-19 Has Had Little Impact
People’s hesitation toward self-driving vehicles is reflected by how little the pandemic has changed opinion. AAA asked drivers if COVID-19 would influence their decision to use a self-driving vehicle as an alternative to public transportation or ride-hailing. Only a relatively small number said they would be more likely to opt for a self-driving vehicle, but a larger number said COVID-19 would make no difference in affecting their decision.

  Using self-driving vehicles…  More likely to use No difference Less likely to use
As an alternative to public transportation 21% 42% 18%
As an alternative to using a ride-hailing service 19% 41% 19%

Self-driving vehicles are still years away from being available to consumers. However, as testing on public roads expands, drivers will likely interact with various levels of new vehicle technology. The public should also find opportunities to educate themselves on when and how self-driving vehicles will be a part of daily life. A collective effort by both industry and consumers is what it will take to move the needle away from apprehension and closer toward acceptance.

“Transparent, accurate and frequent information from the industries involved in developing self-driving vehicles will ease consumer concerns,” said Brannon.

Methodology
The survey was conducted January 15-17, 2021, using a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population overall. The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. Most surveys were completed online; consumers without Internet access were surveyed over the phone.

A total of 1,010 interviews were completed among U.S. adults, 18 years of age or older. The margin of error for the study overall is 4% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups have larger error margins.

Media Contact

Jennifer Cook
Senior Manager, Corporate Communications
425-301-9075
JenniferCook@aaawa.com

Kelly Just
Manager, Public Relations
425-647-1594
KellyJust@aaawa.com

Location
Bellevue Corporate Office
3605 132nd Ave. SE
Bellevue, WA 98006

AAA National Newsroom
AAA National Newsroom

AAA National Exchange
AAA Exchange

About AAA Washington:

AAA Washington has been serving members and the traveling public since 1904. The organization provides a variety of exclusive benefits, including roadside assistance, discounts, maps and personalized trip planning, to its million plus members. In addition, its full-service travel and insurance agencies provide products and services for members and the public. Additional information is available through the company’s offices in Washington and northern Idaho, at www.AAA.com, or by calling 1-800-562-2582.

AAA Washington Media Contacts

Kelly Just | 425-647-1594
Jennifer Cook | 425-301-9075
Twitter: @AAA_Washington
Facebook: AAA Washington

Download the AAA Auto Club App and access your favorite AAA services.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This