While there is still a high level of interest in partially-automated vehicle technology, attitudes toward fully self-driving vehicles have become increasingly apprehensive, according to AAA's annual automated vehicle survey.
This year there was a major increase in drivers who are afraid, rising to 68% as compared to 55% in 2022. This is a 13% jump from last year's survey and the biggest increase since 2020.
AAA believes automakers must be diligent in creating an environment that promotes the use of more advanced vehicle technologies in a secure, reliable, and educational manner. This includes the consistent naming of vehicle systems available to consumers today.
"We were not expecting such a dramatic decline in trust from previous years," said Greg Brannon, director of automotive research for AAA. "Although with the number of high-profile crashes that have occurred from over-reliance on current vehicle technologies, this isn't entirely surprising."
Even with advancements made in recent years, these findings suggest improvements are still needed to build public trust and knowledge surrounding emerging vehicle technology.
There is also a need to dispel confusion around automated vehicles. AAA's survey found that nearly one in ten drivers believe they can buy a vehicle that drives itself while they sleep. Currently, there is no such vehicle available for purchase by the public that would allow someone to fully disengage from the task of driving.
This perception could stem from misleading or confusing names of vehicle systems that are on the market. AAA found that 22% of Americans expect driver support systems, with names like Autopilot, ProPILOT, or Pilot Assist, to have the ability to drive the car by itself without any supervision, indicating a gap in consumer understanding.
Consumers aren't entirely opposed to advanced vehicle technology. In fact, six in ten US drivers would "definitely" or "probably" want these systems in their next car purchase.
Methodology: The survey was conducted January 13-17, 2023, using a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the US household population overall. The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the US household population. Most surveys were completed online; consumers without Internet access were surveyed over the phone.
A total of 1,140 interviews were completed among US adults, 18 years of age or older, of which 949 qualified for the study. The margin of error for the study overall is 4.3% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups have larger error margins.
AAA has conducted its annual Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Survey since 2016; data is not comparable to years prior to 2021 due to change in methodology.