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AAA Arizona: More Americans willing to ride in self-driving cars

Michelle Donati. (Haute Photography)

While many people still have reservations about riding in fully autonomous vehicles, a recent AAA survey found that American motorists are becoming more trusting of the technology.

Results showed that 63 percent of U.S. drivers say they are “afraid” to ride in a self-driving car, down from 78 percent in early 2017. Millennial and male drivers are more likely to embrace the new technology, with only half reporting they would feel afraid to ride in a fully autonomous vehicle.

Increasing exposure to semi-autonomous features, now commonly seen in TV commercials and already available in many new vehicles, may have helped diminish fears of driverless vehicles to some extent.

“Americans are starting to feel more comfortable with the idea of self-driving vehicles,” said Suna Taymaz, vice president of autonomous vehicle strategy for AAA Arizona. “Compared to just a year ago, AAA found that 20 million more American drivers would trust a self-driving vehicle to take them for a ride.”

Earlier this year, AAA partnered with Torc Robotics to develop safety criteria for self-driving cars through a testing program on public streets. Last year, AAA partnered with the city of Las Vegas to introduce a free, self-driving shuttle pilot in downtown Las Vegas. Since its launch in October, the shuttle has transported over 10,000 riders.

“Riders who experience the free AAA self-driving shuttle are immediately more comfortable with self-driving technology once they’ve experienced it,” Taymaz said. “In fact, 98 percent of riders say they would recommend the experience to a friend.”

Regardless of the increase in acceptance, many U.S. drivers remain hesitant about the technology. Consumers may overestimate their own driving abilities and be reluctant to relinquish control of their vehicles. AAA found that 73 percent of U.S. drivers consider themselves better than average behind the wheel, despite the fact that more than 90 percent of crashes are the result of human error.

“American drivers are very confident in their driving abilities, which may explain some hesitation to give up full control to a self-driving vehicle,” Taymaz said. “Education, exposure and experience will likely help ease consumer fears as we steer toward a more automated future.”

– Michelle Donati is the communications manager at AAA Arizona. Contact her at michelle.donati@arizona.aaa.com.

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