October 24, 2023
There’s general unease from the public about self-driving taxis being tested and deployed on the streets of America’s cities.
That’s according to JD Power, which for the first time has conducted a U.S. Robotaxi Experience Study, reflecting the fact that autonomous ride-hailing vehicles are becoming a more regular sight in cities such as San Francisco, Phoenix and Las Vegas.
The survey is being billed as the first ever to provide feedback from both riders and non-riders.
And the results will be of interest to operators such as Cruise, Waymo and Motional. Concerningly, only around a quarter of non-riders (27%) say they are happy to share the road with self-driving taxis and just 20% of people nationally claim they are comfortable with AVs being tested in their communities.
The divisive nature of the tech has already been vividly illustrated in San Francisco in particular, where the decision in August to allow Cruise and Waymo to expand their coverage was met with dissent and objections from both city officials and members of the public.
However, more encouraging for the AV companies is the feedback from those who have actually tried the taxis. The survey found that among riders, 47% gained trust during their journey and 51% maintained their existing level of trust. A mere 2% said they lost trust.
This suggests those who regularly ride in self-driving taxis may have an important role to play as advocates or ambassadors for the tech, particularly in a landscape where there has been disproportionate media coverage dedicated to those highlighting AVs’ downsides.
According to JD Power, while many non-rider consumers are concerned about self-driving vehicles, a huge 81% say they would be willing to hear about others’ experiences before taking a trip in one.
“It’s imperative to ensure these first deployments are flawless – not only for the riders but also especially for those who are not early adopters, including non-riders who are experiencing AVs in their community and those learning from a distance through social media and other news outlets,” said Kathleen Rizk of JD Power.
Among other key findings the study unearthed was that those who have ridden in a self-driving taxi have been most commonly motivated by curiosity (40%) or a recommendation (37%).
Far fewer cited more objective reasons, such as the need to multitask (25%) or because they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs (18%), suggesting that in many respects, AVs are still treated as a mere novelty.
Additionally, nearly 60% of both riders and non-riders do not believe AVs are safer than humans, despite the efforts of Cruise and Waymo to persuade them otherwise. Respondents also expressed low satisfaction with the attributes they perceive as important in convincing them to use a self-driving taxi, such as area coverage, accessibility for disabled passengers, and customer support.
The study was based on responses from 408 consumers in San Francisco and Phoenix.
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