courtesy AAA
courtesy AAA

A year or two ago, every poll trumpeted the fact that Americans did not like autonomous cars. Didn’t trust ’em. Didn’t like ’em. Wouldn’t ride in ’em. Wouldn’t pay for ’em. But a fresh crop of polls say we’re coming around to the idea of a driverless car picking us up and dropping us off.

AAA Is Less Afraid

First up: AAA, the oldest automotive association in the country, found that most people are still “afraid” (AAA’s term) of autonomous automobile overlords. But fewer people are afraid now than they used to be. A year ago, 78% of respondents were afraid to ride in an autonomous vehicle; this year, it’s dropped to 63%. So still more than half, but that’s a big drop in a year’s time. According to a AAA spokesperson, that represents 20 million more Americans being willing to ride in a driverless car.

AAA found that Millennials are less likely to be afraid of autonomous cars, while Baby Boomers are more afraid. But both groups are less afraid in 2018 than they were in 2017.

Autolist and the Early Adopters

Autolist did a poll of more than 20,000 vehicle owners. They found that more men than women trust self-driving cars, which echoed what the AAA poll found as well. Interestingly, this poll found that electric vehicle owners were more likely to trust autonomous cars. Those are also tech-loving early adopter types.

This poll also asked Uber and Lyft users about who drives them around town. Interestingly, given that Uber is investing heavily and publicly in autonomous fleets, Uber riders are less trusting than Lyft riders of the technology.

Deloitte Goes Global

Finally, Deloitte published a big study that focused on the future of the auto business. We’ll skip right to the relevant bit: they found the same things that everyone has found. We’re slowly becoming more okay with advanced automotive technologies.

Deloitte also did polls in 2017 and 2018, and they also found that the percentage of consumers who believed self-driving cars would be unsafe fell drastically in the space of a year. This study was conducted in 15 countries, and it was the same everywhere: a drop in distrust of at least 14 percentage points.

But they also found that in many major markets, like Germany, Japan, and the United States, consumers don’t want to pay extra for autonomous technology. That might lead to autonomous vehicles continuing toward fleets: ride hailing vehicles, local delivery vehicles, and the like.

Self-Driving Gets Less Scary

As more autonomous technology rolls out, either in fully self-driving experiments like Waymo or as ADAS features in new cars we can buy, people will become more and more used to the idea of self-driving cars. We’ll also see what works, what doesn’t, and draw our lines in the sand. And as long as pollsters keep asking you questions, we’ll keep reporting on the results.—KHG

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