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AAA: Americans Fear Self-Driving Cars

Written By: CarPro | Mar 8, 2023 2:00:00 PM

Worried about self-driving cars?  If so, you're not alone. Fear of self-driving cars is on the rise, according to a new survey from the American Automobile Association (AAA).  

AAA Automated Vehicle Survey

AAA’s annual automated vehicle survey checks in with drivers every year to gauge the temperature of how the public feels about autonomous driving tech, something it's done since 2016, although the methodology changed in 2021.

AAA says this year, the study shows that drivers are becoming increasingly anxious about Advanced Driver Assistance Safety (ADAS) technology. While there is a still a high level of interest in partially-automated vehicle technology, researchers say there was a major increase in drivers who are afraid of it: 68% compared to 55% last year.  The 13% increase is the biggest increase since 2020.  Only 9 percent of drivers surveyed said they trust the technology, compared with  15 percent last year.

AV-Survey-Graph-AAA-Credit-1Source: AAA.

“We were not expecting such a dramatic decline in trust from previous years,” said Greg Brannon, director of automotive research for AAA. “Although with the number of high-profile crashes that have occurred from over-reliance on current vehicle technologies, this isn’t entirely surprising.”

AAA says even with all the advancements in recent years, the findings suggest a few things. One, that more improvements are needed to build public trust.  Researchers also believe automakers need to create an environment that promotes the use of more advanced vehicle technologies in a secure, reliable, and educational manner, including the consistent naming of vehicle systems available to consumers today.

Confusion around the capabilities of autonomous vehicles is another issue. AAA's survey found that nearly one in ten drivers believe they can buy a vehicle that drive itself while they sleep. Currently, AAA says there's no such vehicle available for purchase by the public that would allow someone to fully disengage from the task of driving. AAA suggests the confusion could stem from the misleading or confusing names of the vehicle systems on the market today.   AAA found that 22% of Americans expect driver support systems, with names like Autopilot, ProPILOT, or Pilot Assist, to have the ability to drive the car by itself without any supervision, indicating a gap in consumer understanding.

AAA breaks down ADAS versus fully self-driving vehicles below:


What are Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)? Consumers aren’t entirely opposed to advanced vehicle technology. In fact, six in ten U.S. drivers would “definitely” or “probably” want these systems in their next car purchase.

  • Examples of ADAS include blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.  Check out AAA’s Clearing the Confusion, which provides naming and descriptions of ADAS in a consistent, easy-to-understand manner.
  • Active driving assistance (ADA) is also considered ADAS, however, it differs in functionality from other systems. ADA combines braking, accelerating, and steering through a combined use of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance. This technology actively assists the driver versus other ADAS that only turns on when needed. ADA is also the only ADAS classified as Level 2 automation as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

What is a fully self-driving vehicle?

  • A vehicle capable of operating without human involvement. A human driver is not required to control the vehicle at any time, nor required to be present in the vehicle while moving. These vehicles are not available for purchase by consumers and are classified as Level 5 automation as defined by the SAE.


“AAA seeks to partner with automakers to create greater consistency across the industry. Together, we can help consumers understand the type of technology their vehicle has along with how, when and where to use these systems, which will ultimately build trust in the vehicles of the future,” said Brannon. 

For more AAA articles on self-driving technology visit the AAA website.

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