(TNS) — The more familiar people become with self-driving car technology, the less likely they are to trust it, according to a new mobility study from Cox Automotive.
The share of drivers who think roads would be safer with fully autonomous vehicles has dropped to 45 percent, down 18 percent since the survey of 1,250 respondents was last taken in 2016.
"As awareness around the development of autonomous technology increases, we're seeing some dramatic shifts in consumer sentiment," Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, said in a statement. "People now have a deeper understanding of the complexities involved when creating a self-driving car, and that has them reconsidering their comfort level when it comes to handing over control."
It is speculated that a spate of recent high-profile traffic fatalities when semi-autonomous drive features were in use have eroded consumer trust. In March, a self-driving Volvo piloted by Uber hit and killed a pedestrian pushing a bicycle across a road at night in Tempe, Ariz. Uber shut down its self-driving car testing in Arizona, but still has limited testing in Pittsburgh and two California cities, according to Reuters.
Also in March, a Tesla driver using the automaker's semi-autonomous Autopilot feature died when the Model X hit a highway barrier in California. It was the second death while Autopilot was in use; in May 2016 a driver in Florida was killed when his Model S T-boned a semitrailer. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board cleared Tesla of wrongdoing in what was believed to be the first self-driving car fatality, though a strong warning was issued to the electric-car maker to clarify to owners how the system should be used.
Autopilot is considered to be Level 2 autonomy, with features such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping, but the driver is expected to monitor the environment at all times. The Society of Automotive Engineers lists Level 5 as full automation, where the driver has the option to take over but does not need to intervene.
Only 16 percent of respondents would be comfortable at Level 5. The overwhelming majority of survey respondents (84 percent) want the option to drive themselves in an automomous vehicle, suggesting the conveniences outweigh the risk as long as they can take control.
"Despite some setbacks, the desire for autonomous features is strong and growing," Isabelle Helms, vice president of research and market intelligence at Cox Automotive, said in a conference call with reporters. "Driverless cars will be a game changer in the auto industry, where gas pedals and steering wheels (will be) optional."
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