Americans Still Fear Driverless Cars, Even as They Use Autonomous Tech

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CARS.COM — Are you apprehensive about the propect of self-driving cars? Most Americans are. But the irony is that your car already may use autonomous-driving technologies. Despite that apparent disconnect, a new study by travel-services giant AAA found that the more exposure motorists have to autonomous technologies, the more they trust them.

Related: Tesla Autopilot: First Test

The study showed that 75 percent of U.S. drivers would be “afraid” to ride in a self-driving car, and that only one in five would trust an autonomous vehicle to drive itself. That’s despite 61 percent of motorists saying they want at least one of the following features: automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking systems and lane departure prevention.

“What Americans may not realize is that the building blocks towards self-driving cars are already in today’s vehicles and the technology is constantly improving and well-trusted by those who have experienced it,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair.

Corroborating this is AAA’s finding that drivers who own vehicles with semi-autonomous features are 75 percent more likely to trust the technology compared to people whose cars are not similarly equipped. AAA says that result suggests acclimation to such features helps assuage fears.

Still, an uphill battle remains before the concept of autonomous driving gains widespread acceptance.

“While six in 10 drivers want semi-autonomous technology in their next vehicle, there are still 40 percent of Americans that are either undecided or reluctant to purchase these features,” Nielsen stated.

Among drivers who reported wanting semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle, their primary motivations were:

  • Safety, 84 percent
  • Convenience, 64 percent
  • Stress reduction, 46 percent
  • Wanting the latest technology, 30 percent

Conversely, those who eschew semi-autonomous features:

  • Trust their driving skills more than technology, 84 percent
  • Feel the technology is too new and unproven, 60 percent
  • Don’t want to pay extra for the technology, 57 percent
  • Don’t know enough about the technology, 50 percent
  • Find the features “annoying,” 45 percent
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Former Assistant Managing Editor-News Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt Schmitz

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