According to a recent survey conducted by Forbes Legal, 93% of Americans have concerns about self-driving car technology. This apprehension towards autonomous vehicles was heightened last year when Tesla faced a series of high-profile recalls related to its Full Self-Driving and Autopilot systems.
The survey interviewed 2,000 Americans with the aim of better understanding their attitudes towards self-driving cars. While many automakers are exploring the potential of building self-driving cars, none currently offer a fully autonomous system.
One controversial aspect is the use of misleading names by manufacturers to describe their early attempts at autonomous driving. Kelley Blue Book refers to these technologies as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) since they always require the driver’s active supervision. However, automakers market them under names like Autopilot or Full Self-Driving (Tesla), ProPilot Assist (Nissan), and Pilot Assist (Volvo), which may give the impression that the driver can simply relinquish control.
Mercedes’ Drive Pilot, which is only available in California and Nevada, is the only system that allows the driver to divert their attention away from the road under specific conditions and limited speeds.
Last year, a coalition of car safety groups called for industry standards on the naming of these technologies in order to prevent confusion among consumers.
Reluctance to Trust the Tech
The survey revealed that only 12% of respondents described themselves as “very trusting” of self-driving technology. Another 22% considered themselves “somewhat trusting.” On the other hand, 25% expressed being “very untrusting,” making it the most common response. Only 20% of participants had yet to form an opinion.
Forbes Legal reports that skepticism and concern are the prevailing emotions felt by Americans regarding self-driving cars, with nearly half (45%) of consumers expressing one of these emotions. In contrast, only 16% of consumers feel excited, and a mere 8% have an overall positive outlook about these vehicles.
Self-driving Cars: Are We There Yet?
Recalls Hurt Tesla’s Image
Tesla, a leading player in the self-driving car industry, faced significant challenges last year with two high-profile recalls of its ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems). The recalls highlighted the complexities and risks associated with autonomous driving technology.
Tesla offers its systems under three different names. The most advanced system, called Full Self-Driving, comes as a $12,000 option on all Tesla products. However, the company considers it to be in “beta testing” phase, similar to unfinished software. Despite this, tens of thousands of Tesla owners have been allowed to use it on public roads after signing waivers.
In response to safety concerns, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stepped in and forced Tesla to issue a recall, requiring changes to the software’s behavior. However, the NHTSA did not order the company to stop public beta testing.
Another system offered by Tesla is called Autopilot, which is a less-advanced version of their self-driving technology. Autopilot comes as a standard feature on every Tesla product. Like Full Self-Driving, Autopilot also faced a safety recall in December of last year. As a result of the recall, the software was updated to prompt drivers to intervene more often and to shut off their access to the system if they fail to do so.
These recalls have had a negative impact on Tesla’s image. According to Forbes Legal, “62% of survey respondents indicated they are not confident in Tesla’s technology following the recalls.” The publicity surrounding the recalls has raised significant concerns among consumers.
Despite the skepticism surrounding self-driving technology, a considerable portion of respondents (approximately 29%) expressed interest in using or owning a self-driving car within the next five years. Furthermore, some individuals are even willing to pay a premium for this advanced technology.
While there are concerns, there are also believers. Among consumers who see the positives, the majority perceive enhanced mobility for the elderly and people with disabilities, as well as increased efficiency in transportation logistics, as the main benefits.