MIT-Led Study Finds Drivers Are Cautious About Driverless Technology

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【Summary】A survey conducted by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that American drivers are fans of features that help them drive, but not ones that take complete control of the vehicle.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jun 04, 2017 9:00 AM PT
MIT-Led Study Finds Drivers Are Cautious About Driverless Technology

It seems like every automaker and technology company is working on some sort of autonomous technology for the future. An autonomous future is clearly on the horizon and while self-driving cars are supposedly safer than regular human drivers, the majority of drivers in America aren't comfortable with a fully autonomous car.

According to Consumer Reports citing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) survey, American drivers are all for having high-tech features that assist the driver, but aren't exactly on board when it comes to technology that takes the driver completely out of the equation. 

Some Automation Is Okay, But A Lot Is Scary

As the outlet reports, individuals that completed the survey stated they felt more comfortable in cars with technology that assisted them in the act of driving, which includes automatic emergency braking, and not as secure in vehicles with fully autonomous capabilities. 

According to Consumer Reports, drivers were questioned on the highest level of automation they would be comfortable with. The survey found that 59 percent of respondents responded with, "features that actively help the driver, while the driver remains in control," reports the outlet. That figure, according to the report, is up from 40 percent from last year's survey. 

So how many respondents are comfortable with "features that completely relive the driver of all control for the entire drive?" According to the report, just 13 percent of the respondents said they were comfortable with the statement above. That figure, as Consumer Reports points out, is down 25 percent from the survey that was completed last year. 

This year's survey, which was conducted by the MIT Advanced Vehicle Technology research consortium, revealed changes in sentiment by age group, as well. As the survey revealed, only 20 percent of drivers aged 25 to 34 that participated in the survey stated that they were comfortable with driverless vehicles. For drivers in the age bracket of 35 to 44 years old, the percentage was relatively the same at 21 percent.

Those figures are a sharp decline from last year, reports Consumer Reports, when 40 percent of drivers aged 25 to 34 said they'd be comfortable in a completely self-driving vehicle, and 35 percent of drivers in the age bracket of 35 to 44. 

The Downward Trend Continues 

What's causing the decline in trust in self-driving vehicles? According to Hillary Abraham, a research analyst at MIT AgeLab in Massachusetts, the problem can't be traced to a specific issue. "The decline in confidence appears to be a multifaceted issue," said Abraham. "It seems the need for self-driving cars to work perfectly, combined with present and past experiences of low-risk technology failure…leads consumers to believe the technology will never be good enough such that they can trust it with their lives."

Moving forward, it will be imperative for automakers and technology companies to show that autonomous vehicles are just as safe. Recent incidents, like the one that Uber's self-driving vehicle was involved with in Arizona and the multiple incidents with Tesla's Autopilot System don't bode well for fully autonomous cars. Getting real-life drivers to hand full control to a machine will take time and hands-on experience. 

via: Consumer Reports 

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