What will it take for us to trust driverless tech?

Technology and Business

Alice Salter

Alice Salter

19-04-2021

       

In this article, we take a look at the results of our latest survey and ask: 

  • Are safety concerns limiting driverless acceptance? 
  • What features are most desired in AVs?
  • How can manufacturers build public trust in driverless tech?

Since we first started discussing driverless tech, a lot has changed. It’s no longer all that difficult to imagine autonomous vehicles on our roads, and it’s easier than ever to see how the myriad features AVs will include might change our lives. So much media attention is now focused on not how or when AVs will arrive, but the features that will make individual models stand out.


Despite that, safety remains the most important factor for potential owners and users. Does that mean we’re reluctant to let go of the steering wheel and put technology in charge? Or do we just need a little more reassurance?

To answer those questions, 2025AD conducted a piece of research, hoping to gain insight into what ordinary people really think about driverless technology. After carefully compiling a list of queries, we sent a detailed questionnaire out into the world via online media and received over 1,000 responses from self-selected individuals across Germany. This is what the numbers told us…

 

Safety will always be concern number one

Safety is a top concern 2025AD

It’s undeniable that to trust a driverless vehicle, users need to be reassured that it is safe. Safety has always been the number one topic when it comes to driverless tech and it’s still one of the most discussed topics on our own platforms. That was reflected in our research where the top disadvantage for a driverless future was safety, with 37% of respondents seeing it as a major concern.

 

Safety features were among the most important too. 42% prioritised forward-collision braking and another 33% wanted to see in-car emergency assistance. These results show that most are concerned about how machine-driven vehicles will match up to human-controlled ones when it comes to safety. But we must recognise that in many situations those machines are already better drivers than us – human error still accounts for 90% of road accidents and driver assistance systems have continuously lowered the number of traffic fatalities over the years.

 

Young people will be the first to trust AVs completely

Under 25s trust driverless tech 2025AD

In our research, it was confirmed that age plays a major role in how much we’re willing to trust driverless tech. Those under 25 were consistently the most positive about a driverless future, with 62% of our respondents aged 16 to 24 willing to own or rent an AV. For comparison, only 39% of those aged 25 and over were eager to do the same. This younger demographic is naturally more willing for an AV to do the driving, independently or with users able to take over when needed, while they’re on board too.

 

Surprisingly, this hints at a standard acceptance curve. With most technology – just think of smartphones or social media – a few innovators are the first to welcome new developments and get on board very early. We can already see this with driverless. Then younger generations like our surveyed under 25s, and usually those with a higher social status, are early adopters. The tech then spreads into the mainstream as it becomes more common, more affordable and better understood by older generations. Young people might be the first to accept AVs, but we can expect the curve of wider acceptance to follow this regular pattern.

 

What will convince us to accept AVs?

What will convince us 2025AD

There is already proof that driverless cars are safer than human-driven ones, but convincing potential users to trust the technology is not necessarily as simple as it might seem. In our research, time in the market was most important to potential users, with test reports coming in a close second. This suggests that more testing, the release of those results and a growing body of driverless models will increase trust.

 

Therefore, though some are trusting the technology less as it becomes more real, manufacturers are already on the right road. To ensure any model is safe, millions of hours of test driving must be completed both physically on public roads and in test areas, and virtually. This is now an established route to market and, as the tech gains new opportunities to prove itself in real life rather than simulation alone, wider audiences should come to have confidence in AVs.

 

In the end, then, it’s down to OEMs to prove the value of their technology. And they must prove it in the real world, not only in virtual tests and fabricated test cities, however effective they may be, for real people to have faith in their results.

 

Let us know what you think in the comment section below. Would you trust a driverless vehicle based on what you know right now? Is safety still your greatest concern? What would give you the confidence to trust the tech completely?

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