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Trust in self-driving cars declining; full autonomy considered more unsafe than ever

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Trust in self-driving cars declining; full autonomy considered more unsafe than everTrust in self-driving cars declining; full autonomy considered more unsafe than ever

Autonomous cars have a long way to go before winning over buyers

More people are aware of driverless cars than ever before, but fewer of us trust in the technology to keep us safe, with just 16 per cent of people comfortable handing over full control of their car to autonomous systems.

That’s the findings of a US study that proves autonomous cars have a long way to go before winning over buyers in any significant numbers.

In fact, the 2018 Automotive Evolution of Mobility Study: Autonomous Vehicles by Cox Automotice – owner of Carsguide – found that the number of people who would feel safer in a self-driving car than in one they could control themselves has dropped by around 18 per cent over the past two years.

Confidence in the autonomous movement has been rocked lately by a number of high-profile crashes and fatalities, and the news has not been lost on consumers.

The study, which surveyed 1250 consumers in the USA, also found that 84 per cent of buyers still want the option to take over the driving in an autonomous vehicle, while just 16 per cent would feel comfortable in an autonomous vehicle that didn’t allow them to take control.

“As awareness around the development of autonomous technology increases, we’re seeing some dramatic shifts in consumer sentiment,” says Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book executive publisher, Karl Brauer. “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.”

The most recent major Australian study, a federal government standing committee enquiry into driverless vehicles that was tabled in September last year, identified a similar sticking point.

“As so many of the Committee’s witnesses told us, people need to feel that automated vehicles are safe, that their privacy is safeguarded and that all legal questions are resolved before there will be general social acceptance of automated vehicles,” said committee chair, Michelle Landry, at the time. 


Consumer confidence is just one of the issues facing proponents of self-driving cars, with another study earlier this year revealing that new-car buyers simply aren’t willing to pay enough to purchase autonomous technology.

While manufacturer investment in autonomous technology between now and 2023 will be a staggering US$61b, car makers will struggle to recoup anywhere near that outlay, at least in the short term.

That study suggests that full-autonomous technology will cost around US$22,900 per vehicle, but research suggests consumers don’t want to pay more than US$2300 for it.

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