Do Americans trust automated vehicles? According to data from a survey recently conducted by the American Automobile Association, the answer isn’t as simple as you might assume.
Every year the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducts it’s Traffic Safety Culture Index survey, which tracks the opinions and behaviors of United States motorists, so that we can understand how they change over time.
The survey added questions in 2018 regarding the public’s understanding, expectations, and concerns about automated vehicles and automation related technology, with the understanding that the use of such technology was only going to increase in the coming years.
In fact, it is forecasted by researchers that by the year 2025 there will be about 8 million vehicles on the road in the U.S. that are either semi, or fully autonomous. So the future is coming fast.
Six Levels of Vehicle Autonomy
One of the most important things to understand about vehicle autonomy, is that there are six different levels of driver assistance technology advancements, each representing different levels of driving automation:
- Level 0: No driving automation – Any manually controlled vehicle.
- Level 1: Driver assistance automation – Any vehicle that features one automated system intended to assist the driver, such as adaptive cruise control, falls into this category.
- Level 2: Partial automation – This category includes vehicles with automated systems that can control both speed and steering, but still require a driver behind the wheel that can take over at any time.
- Level 3: Conditional automation – Vehicles in this category include environmental detection systems that enable the vehicle to automatically make changes, such as to maintain a certain distance from another vehicle. But, drivers must remain alert to take over in case the operation can’t be performed correctly, for whatever reason.
- Level 4: High automation – Level four is where things get a little more interesting. Level four vehicles can self-correct if there is an error or a system malfunction in most cases, which means in many situations the driver isn’t required to interact, even though they still have the power to. There are currently a number of restrictions on where these cars are able to operate in this mode, referred to as geofencing.
- Level 5: Full automation – Level five vehicles don’t require a driver at all. Think of the taxi in Total Recall. There won’t be controls for a human driver to interact with, and they’ll be able to go anywhere. These types of vehicles exist and are being tested, but are not publically available at this time.
So How do People Feel About AV?
According to the Traffic Safety Culture Index, people are less likely to trust higher-level vehicle automations than they are lower-level ones. This is apparently especially true when it comes to crash prevention.
Those surveyed also reported that they would prefer to own vehicles with lower levels of automation, citing comfort issues. These numbers did represent a slight increase in automation comfortability levels, over the previous year’s survey.
Most concerns tended to center around the possible malfunctioning of automated systems, the possibility of drivers becoming distracted by, or over-reliant on this type of technology, and hacking and data privacy issues.
Level five automated vehicles may be a few years away from being a regular sight on the roads, but the technology is coming, and it’s going to be revolutionary, one way or another.
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