Consumer Trust in Autonomous Vehicles Is Declining, New Study Says | Edmunds

Consumer Trust in Autonomous Vehicles Is Declining, New Study Says

Automakers may be in overdrive developing autonomous vehicle technology, but according to the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study, consumers are growing increasingly wary of self-driving cars.

The latest J.D. Power findings indicate that all age groups except Generation Y (those born 1977-1994) said they would have less confidence in a fully automated vehicle now compared to last year.

Compared to the 2016 study, 11 percent more Generation Z consumers (born 1995-2004) said they "definitely would not" trust self-driving cars, and another 23 percent said they "probably would not" trust the technology. Among pre-baby boomers (born before 1946), 9 percent more were in the "definitely not trust" group. And 81 percent of the baby-boom generation (born 1946-1964) said they either "definitely" or "probably" would distrust vehicle autonomy.

"In most cases, as technology concepts get closer to becoming reality, consumer curiosity and acceptance increase," said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and Human Machine Interface (HMI) research at J.D. Power, in a statement. But "with autonomous vehicles, we see a pattern where trust drives interest in the technology, and right now the level of trust is declining."

On the other hand, when questioned about individual collision avoidance and driver-assist features, survey respondents were considerably more open to the technology. The consumers showed the same interest as in last year's survey when it comes to such features as adaptive headlights, rearview cameras, collision warning with automatic braking and lane change alert.

And, noted Kolodge, familiarity with these kinds of technologies may lead to greater consumer acceptance of the concept of self-driving vehicles.

"As features like adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and blind-spot warning systems become mainstream," she said, "car buyers will gain more confidence in taking their hands off the steering wheel and allowing their vehicles to step in to prevent human error."

On the other hand, it's possible that some highly publicized traffic incidents involving autonomous technology could be making consumers more wary than ever. For example, as reported by Edmunds last July, the Autopilot feature on a 2015 Tesla Model S in Florida was apparently unable to sense a semi-truck turning into its path, resulting in a fatal crash. Although an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that Autopilot was not at fault, the event drew worldwide attention.

And, as Edmunds also reported last year, a Google self-driving car collided with a bus in California. There were no injuries in that low-speed crash, but altogether Google cars have been involved in about a dozen well-publicized collisions. However, the bus incident was the only one in which the car was at fault, and Google subsequently refined its self-driving software.

The annual J.D. Power U.S. Tech Choice Study was conducted this year in January and February. Results are based on an online survey of more than 8,500 consumers who purchased or leased a new vehicle within the past five years.

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