Seven in 10 Americans don’t want to go anywhere near self-driving cars.
The portion of Americans who fear autonomous vehicles — 71% in AAA’s latest survey — virtually is unchanged from a year ago and up 8 percentage points from 2017. While public skepticism isn’t new, its consistency is noteworthy. Last year’s survey, in which 73% expressed anxiety about self-driving cars, came out just nine weeks after an autonomous test vehicle operated by Uber Technologies Inc. killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz.
There’s been virtually no increase in public acceptance even as automakers and tech giants are pouring billions into driverless technology. Honda Motor Co. and Japan’s Softbank Vision Fund invested a combined $5 billion into General Motor Co.’s Cruise autonomous-driving unit last year, and Volkswagen AG is in talks about investing in Ford Motor Co.’s Argo AI, with the two said to be discussing a $4 billion valuation. AAA’s studies suggest public opinion could be a steep challenge when it comes time to persuade customers to pay for the transportation of the future.
“It’s possible that the sustained level of fear is rooted in a heightened focus, whether good or bad, on incidents involving these types of vehicles,” Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering, said in a statement. “Also it could simply be due to a fear of the unknown.”
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