Autonomous Acceptance: More Americans Willing to Ride in Self-Driving Cars


American drivers are beginning to embrace self-driving vehicles. AAA’s 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.

“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.”

While riding in a fully self-driving vehicle is a futuristic concept for many, testing of these vehicles in the United States means that sharing the road with an automated vehicle is an increasing near-term possibility.

AAA found that millennial and male drivers are the most trusting of autonomous technologies. Survey results include:

  • Men are less likely to be afraid (52 percent) than women (73 percent) to ride in a self-driving vehicle.
  • 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.
  • Generation X (47 percent) drivers are more likely than millennial drivers (34 percent) to feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving car.
  • The majority of baby boomers (68 percent) still report being afraid to ride in a self-driving car. However, this generation is significantly more comfortable with the idea than they were a year ago, when 85 percent reported being afraid.

In October 2017, AAA partnered with the City of Las Vegas to introduce a free, self-driving shuttle pilot in Downtown Las Vegas. Since its launch, the shuttle has transported over 10,000 riders. AAA is surveying passengers to learn how their experience affects their perception of self-driving technology.

“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.”

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 involve human error, three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. drivers consider themselves better-than-average drivers.

“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.”

Earlier this month, AAA announced a partnership with Torc Robotics to develop safety criteria for self-driving cars through a testing program on public streets. Using Torc’s self-driving system, the partners will collect data from various urban safety cases they observe while driving in Las Vegas in February and in other cities later this year. The information gathered will help inform safety for the developing industry.

As a safety advocate, AAA is committed to the ongoing, unbiased testing of automated vehicle technologies. Previous testing of automatic emergency brakingadaptive cruise controlself-parking technology and lane keeping systems has shown both great promise and great variation. Future testing will look at how well systems work together to achieve higher levels of automation.

AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers since it was founded more than 100 years ago.