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Study: Most Still Not Comfortable with AVs

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Amid the ongoing technological revolution in the auto industry, there has been a reluctance by consumers to fully embrace autonomous vehicles.

Despite what some automakers would like people to think with system names such as Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, there is no fully autonomous vehicle currently available on the market, nor will there be for some time.

Autonomous driving is split into six different categories: Level 0 through Level 5. Levels 0-2 require an active driver to be present at all times and only provide assistance in performing the basic functions of driving. Levels 3-5, to varying degrees, take control of essential driving functions and do not require a driver's supervision at all times.

According to a report from J.D. Power, which also outlined the autonomy levels, as of May 2021 there were no Level 3-5 vehicles available on a commercial market.

The lack of transparent marketing, as well as a steady stream of news stories covering accidents involving partially autonomous vehicles, have cooled consumer enthusiasm for fully autonomous driving experiences significantly.

According to a recent study conducted by consulting firm AutoPacific , a vast majority of U.S. drivers are uncomfortable with letting their car do the driving for them. 

The study surveyed more than 600 licensed drivers between the ages of 18 and 80 across the country, and it found that only 29 percent of respondents "would be comfortable being driven in a fully autonomous vehicle in the future."

Younger consumers proved to be more comfortable, though only about 40 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they would be comfortable in an AV. 

“This is technology that most consumers are going to need to see and experience for several years before becoming comfortable,” AutoPacific President Ed Kim said in a statement. “It’s different than any other automotive technology that’s currently out there in that you’d be truly putting your vehicle in control of the drive.”

The study results show that "the large majority of respondents will wait until there’s a proven track record of reliability before embracing the technology." Only 24 percent of respondents say that they think there will be fewer automobile accidents with more AVs on the road, giving more credence to the need for a more proven track record. 

Though it has faced very public setbacks in its quest for autonomous vehicles, Tesla was the brand that has the most trust in the field -- around 32 percent of respondents said they trusted the automaker to develop an autonomous vehicle that is both safe and reliable.

"Tesla’s reputation as a technology leader and the fact that its vehicles currently offer some degree of autonomous technologies, whether they reliably work or not, gives them the competitive edge with consumers when it comes to future full autonomy," Kim said.

Toyota came in a distant second, with 19 percent of respondents saying they trusted the Japanese automaker. The release attributes that to a strong reputation of "robustness and reliability" among older generations. Interestingly, though, respondents in the 18-29 age range were more likely to trust Apple -- which doesn't have a vehicle for sale -- with AV development than automakers such as Toyota.

Image: Max Avans

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