Nearly three-quarters of Americans are still leery about traveling in self-driving motor vehicles after deadly accidents with the experimental technology, a new AAA survey has found.
Most respondents also predict it’s going to take at least 10 years for the technology to reach the point that vehicles can drive themselves.
But the survey also found that a majority of people (53 percent) are fine with the idea of self-driving machines handling short, low-speed trips, such as shuttles used at some theme parks and airports. A sizable number (44 percent) are also comfortable with the idea of using autonomous vehicles for making deliveries.
They just don’t want their families or themselves in a machine that’s got a mind of its own. Only 19 percent of the respondents said they would be comfortable using fully autonomous vehicles to carry children or loved ones.
The percentage of respondents who said they were fearful of driving in a fully autonomous vehicle (71 percent) has remained fairly constant since AAA started asking people about the technology in 2016.
It’s not clear whether that’s because of the wariness most of us have about the unknown or the aftereffects of widely publicized failures of self-driving technology. Previous AAA surveys have found that large percentages of people want technology in their vehicles that will start to take on some of the work of driving, but they’re just not there yet in terms of feeling comfortable surrendering total control.
The multiyear survey also allowed AAA to chart periods when people were feeling more comfortable with the idea of climbing into a fully autonomous vehicle and periods when that comfort all but vanished. Those turning points coincide with high-profile accidents. For example, the percentage of people expressing fear about self-driving vehicles soared after a self-driving Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian in March 2018.
AAA says the survey involved more than 1,000 respondents interviewed by telephone from Jan. 10-13.