Americans are warming up to the idea of self-driving cars, a new study reports. In early 2017, about 78% of Americans who were surveyed by the American Automobile Association (AAA) reported that they felt fearful or wary of self-driving vehicles. By early 2018, that number dropped to 63%, according to a January report from AAA.
Only around half of male respondents and millennials said they would be afraid to ride in autonomous vehicles, suggesting younger people and men are generally more comfortable with the developing technology. Overall, this amounts to an additional 20 million Americans since 2017 who say they would feel comfortable riding in self-driving cars.
When specifically asked about sharing the roads with the autonomous autos, 13% of AAA’s respondents said they would feel safer, and 46% said they would feel less safe. Of the remainder, 4% felt unsure and 37% felt indifferent. Testing of autonomous vehicles is well underway, with engineers from Google spinoff Waymo hitting the streets in Atlanta to assess the technology in heavy traffic. This means some drivers might already be sharing the streets with self-driving cars, or will in the near future.
The respondents’ feelings about self-driving vehicles were largely defined by their gender and age. The generational distinctions may reveal overall differences in comfort with the use of newer technologies, as millennials grew up with personal computers, tablets, and mobile devices in their homes, schools, and workplaces.
Some of the study’s most striking results regarding gender, age, and comfortability with autonomous technology are as follows:
• Women: 73% feel afraid of riding in a self-driving car, and 55% feel less safe sharing the road with one.
• Men: 52% feel afraid of riding in self-driving vehicles, and 36% feel less safe with them on the road.
• Millennials (18-36 years old): 49% reported feeling afraid of riding in an autonomous vehicle, and 34% feel less safe with self-driving cars on the road.
• Generation Xers (37-52 years old): 70% reported being afraid of riding in a self-driving vehicle, while 47% feel less safe with autonomous cars on the road.
• Baby boomers (53-71 years old): 68% report being afraid of riding in self-driving cars, and 54% are afraid to share the road with them.
The general wariness around the burgeoning technology may have to do with the fact that 73% of U.S. motorists consider their on-road skills to be better than the average driver. With so much confidence behind-the-wheel, motorists are hesitant to give up the driver’s seat. However, this survey result comes in spite of the fact that 90% of crashes are caused by human error, a statistic purveyors of self-driving vehicles are hoping to lower.