Going global: Where is autonomous driving most accepted?

Technology and Business

Alice Salter

Alice Salter



In this article, we take a look at an exciting new study and ask:

  • Are we becoming more open to driverless tech?
  • Does AV acceptance vary from country to country?
  • Will driver assistance systems impact how we see self-driving tech?

Here at 2025AD, we’re always discussing the latest developments in the world of autonomous driving. Whether it’s news about big manufacturers, stories about how driverless could be put to good use or our own research into the myths that still surround the topic, we’re always digging deeper into the tech behind the concept.


But as the reality of the challenges we face on the road to level 5 automation has set in, and the ambition we saw perhaps five years ago has scaled back to set more realistic targets, our attention is turning to acceptance. Without it, self-driving will never find its place on our roads. Now, a new Mobility Study from Continental Automotive is providing some answers. We couldn’t wait to take a closer look.


Exploring the data


The latest Mobility Study from Continental is the sixth the manufacturing giant has conducted, asking people in Germany, France, the USA, China and Japan about various aspects of mobility. While the first stage focused on how Covid-19 impacted mobility habits, the second stage, conducted in October 2020, took a closer look at in-car technological development.


It’s this part of the study which has provided some interesting insight on the topic of automated travel as respondents were asked about their general attitude toward automotive mobility, their openness to various driver assistance systems and technological functions, as well as their willingness to share mobility data.


On these topics, the study drew plenty of data, but one of the most exciting is the fact that driver assistance systems and automated driving are gaining acceptance worldwide. As we might expect, and have discussed previously, openness to driverless tech is high in China and Japan. But people in Germany, France and the USA are more open than we might have thought, though they continue to have a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude.

characters and blinking LED ‘eyes’. Perhaps this shows how, as driverless become more common, AVs might become real ‘characters’ in our lives from an early age.

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Image: Continental 2021

A global divide


Many of this study’s findings align with our own research. They found, for example, that though new technologies are of interest to drivers, fully giving up control is still unimaginable for many people. We tend to sit at the wheel of our cars out of conviction, and as our research in Germany showed, we’re apprehensive about losing the joy of driving which comes with manual control.


That said, the level to which we feel apprehensive about, or even fearful of, autonomous tech varies according to location. In the USA, fear is a significant factor. There, 75% of respondents are concerned about automated driving, a figure which is unchanged since 2018.


Elsewhere, driverless is seen as a natural progression. In France, for example, 40% expect to see AVs in the near future and in China and Japan the outlook is even more positive. An impressive 91% of respondents in China and 82% in Japan consider automated driving to be a useful development and a majority in both countries expect AVs to become a permanent feature in the next five to 10 years.


While that divide is significant, and will likely have an impact on how AVs are rolled out globally, there is a consensus across the surveyed countries when considering arguments against automated driving. Around 80% of all respondents agree that legislation is yet to create the right framework for technical development and call for established guiding principles to integrate AVs into daily road traffic. Acceptance might vary, but the issues with delivering a driverless future are constant worldwide.


Control and driver assistance systems


Levels of acceptance globally can also be gleaned from responses to driver assistance systems. Generally, the study discovered that the technological possibilities in terms of automated driving are far more advanced than the current willingness of drivers to use them.


For driver assistance systems, the story is different. Across all five countries, drivers are open to their use, especially when it comes to safety-related functions. As Frank Petznick, head of the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems business unit at Continental, explains, “The high level of confidence in driver assistance systems indicates that as these become more widespread, confidence in automated driving will automatically grow.


“Our experience has shown that acceptance increases as people get to know and understand the functions in question. Extensive testing is therefore key. This should be carried out in real-life traffic conditions in order to understand how people interact with the systems. In turn, this will provide important findings that can be incorporated into the further development of the technology.”

csm_20210811-frank_petznick_2_2e8ac7905b_auto_x2_colored_toned_light_ai (1)
Image: Frank Petznick, Continental 2021

Our route forward?


The road to trusted AVs may therefore run through the development of technologically advanced and trusted driver assistance systems. In particular, the demand for safety-related systems suggests that there is space in the market for accident-reducing AVs, though some hurdles around acceptance remain in place.


That said, this study reveals that more and more drivers are seeing benefits in self-driving. Scepticism remains, especially in Europe and the USA, and there is work to be done if manufacturers hope to overcome this hesitancy. Still, fewer than ever are completely closed off to the concept.



What do you think? Is acceptance growing steadily across the globe? Will reliable ADAS prompt trust in autonomous features? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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