Driverless cars take a backseat: Only 17% of Americans believe self-driving cars will be safer than human drivers

January 27, 2021
  • 28% of Americans believe that self-driving cars will reduce the number of fatal crashes.
  • 19% would trust riding in a self-drive mass transit system.
  • 40% of vehicle owners say the latest vehicle technology is too confusing to use.

Sitting back, relaxing and letting the car take the strain is of limited appeal to Americans as new research from Mintel, the experts in what consumers want and why, reveals that less than a fifth (17%) of US consumers believe self-driving cars will be safer than human drivers. Meanwhile, under three in ten (28%) believe that self-driving cars will reduce the number of fatal crashes.

And while reclaiming precious time otherwise spent on a commute might seem like an appealing option, just one quarter (26%) of Americans believe everyday commuting will be more enjoyable with self-driving technology. Confidence in self-driving is even lower when it comes to group travel as under a fifth (19%) of Americans would trust riding in a self-drive mass transit system (eg autonomous bus, autonomous train).

Hannah Keshishian, Automotive Analyst, Mintel, said:

“Whether consumers believe in it or not, the future of mobility will focus on self-driving transit. The transportation industry as a whole has been working toward this for quite some time. Once these innovations become widely available, consumers can be expected initially to be hesitant to embrace these changes in mobility. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that consumers will eventually adapt and become acclimated to these changes.

“Self-driving vehicles are struggling to amass a positive consumer perception. Automakers tend to focus on the safety and lifesaving aspect of autonomous vehicles, but they should also consider focusing on the reclaimed time aspect. As consumers’ lives become increasingly busy, the commute is one of the few spaces where consumers are spending time that could easily be reclaimed.”

Advanced safety features are under-utilized

The top three safety features that Americans have in their current cars include adaptive cruise control (41%), blind spot assistance (39%) and automatic emergency braking (30%). But according to Mintel research, safety features are grossly underutilized: all advanced safety features failed to capture consumer usage rates over 50%. Interestingly, while older consumers tend to get a negative association of being “bad with technology” consumers over the age 45 are more likely than younger consumers to utilize most advanced safety features, 42% using cruise control compared to 38% of all consumers, 58% using blind spot technology compared to 38% of all consumers and 24% using automatic braking compared to 25% of all consumers. This comes as over 40% of vehicle owners feel that the latest vehicle technology is too confusing to use.

“Consumers have been extremely vocal about their desire for increased vehicle safety, so it’s somewhat surprising that most car buyers whose vehicles are equipped with advanced safety features aren’t widely utilizing them. Automakers and dealerships, more specifically, will need to ensure that car buyers are being given proper training and education around how to use their advanced safety features not just on the day of purchase but on the test drive as well,” concludes Hannah.

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