ATLANTA -- Increasing awareness of self-driving vehicles is fueling apprehension about the safety of the technology, a new survey reveals.
Nearly half of the 1,250 consumers surveyed said they would never buy a Level 5 (or fully autonomous) vehicle, according to a Cox Automotive consumer attitudes study released Thursday. That’s up from 30 percent of the 2,264 people polled two years ago.
SAE International recognizes five levels of vehicle autonomy, ranging from Level 0 (human-only control) to Level 5 (no steering wheels, pedals and human control).
Driverless vehicles are seen as less safe by consumers than they were two years ago, with the vehicle autonomy preference shifting from Level 4 to Level 2 -- the level currently available. The number of respondents who believe roads would be safer if all vehicles were fully autonomous vs. operated by people has decreased 18 percentage points in two years.
People, it seems, are not ready to let go of the steering wheel.
Nearly 85 percent of respondents in the 2018 survey think people should always have the option to drive themselves even in a self-driving vehicle, compared with 16 percent who would feel comfortable letting an autonomous vehicle drive them without the ability to take control.
Consumer confidence in autonomous vehicles has eroded in the wake of crashes, such as the fatal Uber accident in Arizona and mishaps involving semi-autonomous systems in Tesla vehicles.
While consumer awareness of full self-driving technology is up 24 percentage points in the past two years, the perception of its safety has dived nearly 20 percentage points.
“People now have a deeper understanding of the complexities involved when creating a self-driving car, and that has them reconsidering their comfort level when it comes to handing over control,” noted Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.
Despite consumer trepidation, Cox sees autonomous vehicle adoption gaining traction. That will have broad implications for automakers and dealers.
“Miles traveled will shift toward fleet-owned vehicles, causing what we believe to be a potential 40 percent reduction in consumer vehicle sales,” said Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive.
Cox is making a big bet on that future today. The company has created a business unit to sell software and services to car-sharing and ride-hailing companies, vehicle subscription programs and, eventually, robotaxi fleets.
Cox expects its Mobility Solutions Group to balloon into a $5 billion business in a decade, Automotive News reported Aug. 13.