Insurance giant AAA released its automated vehicle survey finding that while partially automated vehicle technology remains of interest to the public, fears remain over fully autonomous vehicles and it is rising.
AAA found that the number of drivers who are afraid of autonomous technology rose to 68% in 2023 up from 55% in 2022. This 13% jump from last year’s survey is the biggest increase in fears among drivers since 2020, AAA said.
“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.”
AAA said that automakers can help to alleviate fears and build trust from automated vehicles by:
- Creating reliable education for drivers.
- Establishing naming consistency of vehicle systems available to consumers today.
- Dispeling confusion around automated vehicles and what they do.
The reason is that there is misunderstanding among drivers about what is available today. In the survey, AAA found that one in 10 drivers believe they can buy a vehicle that drives itself while they sleep. Currently, there is no such vehicle that can do that.
The misunderstanding could stem from the names of the vehicle systems on the market such as Autopilot, ProPilot or Pilot Assist. This has led many Americans to expect driver support systems to have the ability to drive itself with or without supervision.
Some automated functions welcomed
While fully automated vehicles are feared, partially automated technology, such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), are desired. AAA found six in 10 American drivers want partially automated functions in their next car purchase.
- ADAS technology like blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.
- Active driving assistance, which is also considered ADAS, but combines braking, accelerating and steering through a combined use of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance.
Why it matters
A trend is happening in the automotive space where OEMs are backing away from fully autonomous technology, at least for the time being. Instead they are focusing on partial automated vehicles instead particularly safety features.
OEMs may have taken these steps in response to drivers that have many fears about vehicles taking over control.
In February, Mercedes-Benz plans to bring SAE Level 3 autonomous capabilities to the U.S. in standard production vehicles. The technology, called Drive Pilot, allows drivers to hand over driving tasks to the vehicle under certain conditions.
This comes after Ford Motor Company and Volkswagen removed their support for the autonomous joint venture Argo AI. Ford has decided to shift its capital spending from Level 4 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) being developed by Argo AI to internally developed L2+/L3 automated technology. As a result, Argo AI was closing its doors and VW said it would pursue future technology through Intel’s Mobileye.
Additionally, Stellantis N.V. said late in 2022 that it would acquire aiMotive, a maker of autonomous software. The technology from aiMotive would work with Stellantis’ STLA AutoDrive platform that will offer Level 2, 2+ and 3 autonomous capabilities.
This doesn't mean that fully autonomous vehicles will be going away and progress still is being made by companies developing this technology. However, implementation of these driving features may take quite a bit longer than originally expected.