Motorists still fearful of self-driving vehicles

March 25, 2024

Tyson Fisher


As autonomous truck companies prepare to deploy self-driving trucks later this year, a new survey reveals that most Americans are not ready for self-driving vehicles.

According to a recent survey conducted by AAA, two-thirds of U.S. drivers are afraid of self-driving vehicles, while another 25% are unsure about the emerging technology. Of the more than 1,000 people surveyed, only 9% indicated that they trust fully autonomous vehicles.

Attitudes toward self-driving vehicles have not budged much since last year, when AAA’s survey yielded similar results. However, public perception of autonomous vehicles changed significantly from 2022 to 2023. Two years ago, 55% expressed they were afraid of self-driving vehicles, with 15% trusting them. Last year, the percentage of those afraid of the technology jumped to 68%, while trust in autonomous vehicles dropped to 9%.

“There has been an increase in consumer fear over the past few years,” Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering research for AAA, said in a statement. “Given the numerous and well-publicized incidents involving current vehicle technologies – it’s not surprising that people are apprehensive about their safety.”

Although the vast majority of Americans surveyed appear to not trust self-driving vehicles, they do seem to be more accepting of semi-autonomous features.

Nearly 60% are in favor of both reverse and forward automatic emergency braking. Another 56% support lane-keeping assistance, about half are fine with adaptive cruise control and 42% support active driving assistance.

Despite U.S. drivers having a favorable position on reverse AEB systems, recent research suggests the technology may not be very reliable. In February, AAA released a study that put reverse AEB systems to the test. During test runs involving a vehicle crossing behind the test vehicle, the reverse AEB system applied the brakes in less than two-thirds of test runs. A collision was prevented in only 2.5% of runs.

When it comes to forward AEB systems, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into the efficacy of the technology on Freightliner and Western Star trucks. Last May, NHTSA launched an investigation after receiving complaints about AEB systems on certain Daimler trucks. Reports indicate the braking technology may inaccurately identify an object and command the truck to stop unexpectedly, resulting in a hazard to other motorists. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is expected to publish a final rule in April that would require AEB systems on most new commercial motor vehicles.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes an AEB mandate on large trucks while the technology is still being perfected.

“The notice of proposed rulemaking mandates AEB systems without sufficiently addressing false activations, properly consulting with professional truck drivers or completing ongoing research programs,” OOIDA wrote.

AAA stated that advanced driver assistance systems’ “performance should reflect reasonable and safe scenarios, with clear understanding of the limitations.” LL

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