October 9, 2023
Public confidence in self-driving vehicles is continuing to slide in the United States.
For the second year in a row, the J.D. Power US Mobility Confidence Index (MCI) Study has reported a drop in consumer readiness for automated vehicles (AVs), with the index score (on a 100-point scale) falling from 39 to 37.
A lack of understanding and knowledge of AV technology is being blamed for the shortfall in public confidence and this is being compounded by the sort of negative media coverage that has accompanied, for example, the rollout of self-driving taxis in San Francisco.
However, the study does come with an important caveat – those who have actually ridden in a self-driving taxi are far more trustworthy of autonomous driving tech. For these consumers, the index score rose to 67, demonstrating, according to J.D. Power, that experience is “critical to AV adoption.”
This leads to the conclusion that more needs to be done to highlight or publicize people’s positive experiences with AV tech. In addition, the survey found that confidence is higher in the western part of the country, reflecting the fact that many of the initial deployments have been in states such as California, Arizona and Nevada.
“Consumer trust is fragile, but it is the foundation upon which long-term AV acceptance is built,” said Lisa Boor, senior manager of auto benchmarking and mobility development at J.D. Power.
“This first-time feedback from robotaxi riders shows significant growth in consumer comfort levels across any AV application. Industry stakeholders must seize the opportunity to build confidence and promote the technology across all transportation modalities through these first-hand experiences but, for success, it cannot be overshadowed by endless deployment issues.”
The study also highlighted other areas of concern, with 22% of consumers believing that full automation is on offer from Tesla or Autopilot, despite the fact that the company merely provides driver-assistance tech.
There is also a lack of understanding between the different levels of automation, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, with consumers uncertain what each level permits them to do in a vehicle. This led to many admitting to risky behaviors at the wheel.
The study was based on responses to an online survey completed by 3,000 vehicle owners and was carried out in July in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Advanced Vehicle Technology Consortium.
“Experience with automation appears to greatly improve confidence in the technology,” Bryan Reimer of MIT said. “As trust is built over time but eroded quickly, stakeholders may need to find new ways to proactively educate potential users on the advantages and current limitations of vehicle automation systems.”
Some automakers have already realized the need for an education program, with General Motors launching a “Hands Free Eyes On” initiative to increase confidence in its Super Cruise driver assistance tech earlier this year.
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