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Concerned about self-driving cars? You're not alone

Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

Self-driving car boosters often promote the technology as a way to cut down on the nearly 40,000 highway fatalities every year in the U.S., and it's possible that message is starting to get through.

A AAA survey released this week found that although 63 percent of U.S. drivers said they would feel afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle, the percentage is down from 78 percent last year.

"Americans are starting to feel more comfortable with the idea of self-driving vehicles," AAA Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations Director Greg Brannon said in a news release. "Compared to just a year ago, AAA found that 20 million more U.S. drivers would trust a self-driving vehicle to take them for a ride."

Still, reactions to the technology often run to the negative.

Earlier this month, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released the results of a survey the group had commissioned that found 64 percent of respondents were concerned about sharing the road with driverless cars, an attitude shared across the country.

The unease continued with questions regarding safety exemptions for driverless cars and allowing them to operate without equipment that would let a human take control. Those concerns come -- as the Free Press recently reported -- as General Motors has asked for an OK to test its latest autonomous Chevrolet Bolts without steering wheels, accelerators or brake pedals.

 

The advocacy group said its survey should be a wake-up call to Congress as it considers self-driving vehicle regulations. The group said the survey shows the public supports government oversight of driverless car testing.

Part of the concern for groups such as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a belief that mistakes from rushing the technology to market and high-profile incidents, such as the 2016 Tesla crash, will hinder acceptance of what those groups consider to be a potentially life-saving technology.

As a highlight of that phenomenon, another Tesla crash just this week was generating headlines. A Model S that might have been operating in Autopilot mode crashed into a parked firetruck in California. No injuries were reported.

Attitudes about driverless cars are clearly not all negative. At a breakfast luncheon for women professionals last week at the Renaissance Center, the majority of those in attendance during a panel discussion about technology raised their hands to signal they were excited about the prospect of driverless cars.

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