People across the country and across generations are concerned with driverless cars and trucks on our roadways, according to a new public opinion poll commissioned by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates).
The results of the survey demonstrate people care deeply about road safety and the impact of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on public roads, and they are highly supportive of rules and protections for this developing technology.
The poll of more than 2,000 adults also finds, generally, that concerns were shared in all types of communities, whether in urban, suburban or rural.
Advocates' President Cathy Chase responded to the poll results, "Autonomous vehicles (AVs) have been touted by members of the industry as a solution to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries, and increase mobility. However, as our poll shows, Americans have deep concerns about sharing the roads with them, and for good reason. By many accounts, driverless vehicles are nowhere near ready for prime time. They have experienced numerous failures resulting in stranded vehicles, blocked traffic, crashes, injuries, and at least one fatality. The public is keenly aware of these dangers and has responded to this poll with strong support for minimum government safety requirements for driverless vehicles, which do not exist now."
Specifically, the poll showed that four out of five Americans (83%) expressed concern about sharing public highways and roads with driverless cars as a motorist, bicyclist or a pedestrian.
Across generations, over four in five adults expressed concern about driverless cars, with concern levels peaking among Baby Boomers. Of note, 86% said they feel the same concern about driverless tractor-trailers and delivery trucks on our roads.
Yet, the poll showed that many believe their concerns can be allayed by setting standards. Advocates states that currently there are no government safety requirements for the performance of driverless technologies on cars or trucks, noting that if survey respondents knew that companies had to meet minimum government safety requirements for their driverless cars and trucks, close to two-thirds (64%) say their concerns would be addressed.
The poll also found concerns around the potential for AVs to be hacked. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans support government officials issuing cybersecurity rules to protect against the hacking of driverless cars as well as the misuse of consumers' personal data — whether from within the United States or from other countries. Of the 66 percent support rate, 44 percent "strongly support" this initiative.
A key issue is that driverless cars will be operated not only in different weather and lighting conditions but also on all types of roads, such as local streets and busy highways, and with all types of road users. In the poll, more than seven in 10, or 72%, of adults support government officials requiring a "vision test" for vehicles. The test would make sure driverless cars can operate safely and correctly identify or "see" all people — including pedestrians, cyclists, and those using assistive devices like wheelchairs, and objects on the road. Over half the respondents said they "strongly support" this type of vision test.
Chase added: "We urge the US Department of Transportation, Congress and state elected officials to pay attention to the strong sentiment of the public as they develop policies for driverless vehicles. The role of government is essential in setting safety standards and protecting everyone on our nation's roads. Without safeguards and regulations, the results could be disastrous and deadly."
Methodology: These opinions are the results of an online CARAVAN survey conducted among 2,021 US adults 18 years old and older. The survey was live on February 13-17, 2023. Completed interviews are weighted by five variables: age, sex, geographic region, race and education to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total US population, 18 years of age and older.