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75% of Americans Afraid to Ride in Self-Driving Vehicles

Three-fourths of U.S. drivers said they were “afraid” to ride in a self-driving car, according to a survey by AAA. They will not be reassured by the recent news that Google’s self-driving car caused its first accident, colliding with a bus.

Only one-fifth of Americans say they would trust an autonomous vehicle’s ability to drive itself. However, at the same time, Americans’ demand for semi-autonomous vehicle technology such as automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control remains high.

Sixty-four percent of American drivers reported wanting at least one of the following semi-autonomous features on their next vehicle: automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist or self-parking technology. Eighty-four percent of drivers who wanted these features cited safety as their primary motivation, followed by convenience (64%), reducing stress (46%) and a desire to have the latest technology (30%).

The reasons Americans gave for fearing autonomous vehicles included trusting their own abilities more than the car’s (84%), feeling the technology was too new and unproven (60%), not wanting to pay more money for it (57%), feeling they did not know enough about the technology (50%) and finding it annoying (45%).

Semi-autonomous features are likely to continue appearing in new vehicles, however their impact will likely be muted. As of 2014, the average age of passenger vehicles on the roads was 11.4 years, according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. The average age has held steady at 10 years or more since 2004. While this may mean that, at some point in the near future, drivers are likely to go out and buy new vehicles, I predict that many of these “new” vehicles will be used cars or lower-priced models.

Although the Great Recession technically ended in June 2009, many consumers are still struggling to make ends meet. Many have not regained their former standard of living, and research shows the recession continues to have a negative impact on those who entered the workforce during or shortly after it ended. Economically insecure people are not likely to go out and splurge on a new car featuring multiple semi-autonomous bells and whistles.