As more details emerge about the collision between a self-driving Uber SUV and a pedestrian in Arizona, including shocking footage showing the fatal crash, a well-timed report has dug deep into consumer sentiment towards autonomous cars.
According to a survey of 1,500 drivers recently released by J.D. Power and Miller Canfield, consumers are split almost 50-50 on whether they’d get behind the wheel of a fully automated, self-driving car – 47% “definitely” or “probably” would, while 46% “probably” or “definitely” would not.
“We’ve been studying this sentiment towards automated driving for a number of years and the skepticism remains high, regarding automation in general,” explained Kristin Kolodge, executive director of Human Machine Interface at J.D. Power and co-author of the report. “We see consumers are really excited about lower level technologies, like individual automated technology that helps them drive, from a blind spot warning or automatic emergency braking, but when that vehicle takes over with full control is where we see that level of skepticism increase.”
Consumers are still suspicious about what would happen if a self-driving car ever did fail.
“They’re drawing analogies to their smartphone or computer, saying OK, these technologies break down, what’s to lead me to believe that my vehicle would not and what’s going to happen in that type of situation,” said Kolodge. “We know manufacturers have been working very hard on resolving that type of situation from fail-safe type of strategies and building in redundancy in their systems, but it’s not clear to the consumers what that situation would look like.”
If an accident that resulted in an injury did happen in a fully automated, self-driving vehicle, 51% of those surveyed would pursue litigation. The report also found that the ideal resolution for a consumer would be a one-time lump sum settlement in out-of-court, private proceedings, signalling that people recognize they wouldn’t be held liable.
The standout data point for Kolodge though was that 74% of consumers are willing to share automated driving system data after a collision with insurers and car manufacturers.
“It was a data point that we were really excited to see because we know that the data on the vehicles is going to be so rich and certainly could bring quite a bit of clarity to what happened in accident reconstruction,” she said. “There was this overarching sense of sharing for the greater good.”
Nonetheless, manufacturers of self-driving cars should be worried that consumer attitudes might be affected by the recent collision.
“This was a major incident that occurred this week. There have been some other major incidents with automated driving and various levels of automation even up until now that we’ve seen consumers respond to and be able to cite as reasons for their sentiment choices,” said Kolodge.
“We know that the public is paying attention and their trust is very fragile at this point in time, so it’s going to be important to understand really the right way to handle this situation from a communications perspective and make sure that we continue to set consumer expectations about what this technology can or cannot do.”