Self-Driving Cars

Could improving vehicle safety technology pave the way for self-driving cars?

Feb. 25—Improving vehicle safety systems and technology could lead to motorists becoming more accepting of self-driving cars, according to AAA.

The association’s annual automated vehicle survey found that while only 22% want manufacturers to focus on developing self-driving vehicles, 80% want current safety systems, such as automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance, to be improved. More than half of those surveyed, 58%, want those safety features in their next vehicle.

“People are ready to embrace new vehicle technology, especially if it will make driving safer,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations. “Consumers are clear about what they want, and, if automakers seize the opportunity to provide a better experience now, it will pave the way for the vehicles of tomorrow.”

AAA interviewed 1,010 Americans ages 18 and older between Jan. 15 and 17 for the survey. Most surveys were conducted online, with those who did not have internet access completing the survey over the phone.

The survey results indicate people are interested in more advanced vehicle technology. If those safety features result in a positive experience for drivers, it could lead to people being more accepting of self-driving vehicles, according to AAA.

Roughly 96% of 2020 vehicle models included at least one advanced driver assistance system, such as automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning or lane keeping assistance. For people buying new vehicles, this could be their first experience with advanced vehicle technology. Previous AAA research discovered that some systems don’t work as expected, which could negatively influence a driver’s opinion of automation.

“Transparent, accurate and frequent information from the industries involved in developing self-driving vehicles will ease consumer concerns,” said Brannon.

AAA has surveyed motorists about self-driving cars over the last six years. While Americans are still hesitant about full automation, they are warming up to vehicles with more advanced technology. AAA found that 14% of motorists would trust riding in a self-driving car, similar to last year’s results. The remaining 86% said they would either be afraid to drive in a self-driving vehicle (54%) or unsure about it (32%).

The coronavirus pandemic has little affect on motorists’ comfort with self-driving cars, AAA reported. Of those surveyed, 21% said COVID-19 made it more likely they’d use a self-driving vehicle over public transportation and 19% said they’d be more likely to use it as an alternative to ride-hauling service.

AAA is having a free virtual seminar on Friday looking at self-driving vehicles and societal impacts. The session, Keeping Pedestrians Safe in the AV World, is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is co-sponsored by the University of Toledo’s College of Engineering. To register, visit


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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