Two-Thirds of Americans Afraid of Self-Driving Cars

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The acceptance of self-driving cars by the American public has risen recently. However, nearly two-thirds are afraid of the new technology and vehicles. This worry could hamper the growth of the burgeoning industry.

AAA released data from its researchers:

American drivers are beginning to embrace self-driving vehicles, according to a new study from AAA. The annual survey reveals that 63 percent of U.S. drivers report feeling afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, a significant decrease from 78 percent in early 2017. Millennial and male drivers are the most trusting of autonomous technologies, with only half reporting they would be afraid to ride in a self-driving car. To ensure that American drivers continue to be informed, prepared and comfortable with this shift in mobility, AAA urges automakers to prioritize consumer education.

While this is positive for car companies pursuing the shift to autonomous vehicles, the billions of dollars manufacturers have invested in what they see as the trend of the future may be at risk.

As might be expected, millennials are more accepting of the new technology than other age groups. However, older Americans are more wary:

Millennials are the most trusting of self-driving vehicles, with only 49 percent (down from 73 percent) reporting that they would be afraid to ride in a self-driving car. While the majority of baby boomers (68 percent) still report being afraid to ride in a self-driving car, this generation is significantly more comfortable with the idea than they were a year ago, when 85 percent reported being afraid.

And there is a huge gulf between men and women, according to the research:

 Women (73 percent) are more likely than men (52 percent) to be afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle, and more likely to feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving car (55 percent versus 36 percent).

Among the reasons for the lack of acceptance of autonomous cars is that Americans believe they are good drivers, despite the fact that car accidents are expensive and risk injury, and in rarer cases death:

Although fears of self-driving vehicles appear to be easing, U.S. drivers report high confidence in their own driving abilities. Despite the fact that more than 90 percent of crashes are the result of human error, three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. drivers consider themselves better-than-average drivers. Men, in particular, are confident in their driving skills with 8 in 10 considering their driving skills better than average.

Every major manufacturer in the world, which in the United States includes Ford and GM in particular, and many tech companies, like Alphabet, have poured and continue to pour tremendous sums into autonomous vehicle technology. Some plan to have a larger percentage of their model lines include self-driving vehicle cars within a few years. Those investments are at risk because of current public opinion.