Study:Interest in Autonomous Vehicles Growing

Chris Teague | Nov 30, 2021

Despite what some automakers’ marketing departments would have you believe, self-driving vehicles do not exist in any widespread fashion today. Pockets of test vehicles patrol limited areas around the country, but no one can buy an autonomous vehicle (AV) from a dealership and use it on public roads.

GM Autonomous Fleet Vehicle Testing in Michigan

The J.D. Power 2021 Mobility Confidence Index (MCI) Study surveyed 4,000 vehicle owners in the United States to gain insights into what people think about AVs and gauge their knowledge levels. While overall AV knowledge and awareness improved from last year, the study finds that many people still carry misconceptions and doubts about the technologies.

In the survey, just 37 percent of respondents could correctly identify that SAE’s Level 4 and Level 5 descriptions are the only two that define a fully automated vehicle. More than half believe that current driver-assistance systems fall into the category of autonomous driving technologies, which is cause for alarm. More alarmingly, people who consider themselves to have more knowledge on AVs performed worse, with just 32 percent able to accurately define a fully automated vehicle. People who say they know nothing about AVs actually do a better job describing what they are, with 37 percent accurately defining self-driving cars.

Drivers are more interested in autonomous vehicles than a year ago, but the increase in awareness does not equate to an increase in knowledge. J.D. Power finds that consumer interest in AVs climbed 10 percent from 2020, with 51 percent of respondents saying they have more general interest after reading or hearing something about them. On the flip side, just 29 percent of respondents took steps to find information about AVs. The good news here is that most people are willing to take on training and become certified to own or operate an AV, with 58 percent of people saying they’d take a course to earn an AV license.

Autonomous vehicles have a long way to go to earn consumers’ trust. The study finds that 41 percent of people are comfortable with today’s level of driver-assistance features being the maximum level of automation. Compare that with just 14 percent that would be comfortable sharing the roads with AVs, and it becomes clear that the industry has plenty of teaching to do before they hit the streets. Respondents are most comfortable with AV technologies that don’t involve them, such as transporting goods.

J.D. Power notes that consumer confidence is trending positively, along with excitement to use autonomous vehicles for personal transportation, delivery services, ride-sharing, or public transit. People also see a use for AV technologies for those who are disabled or are unable to drive for other reasons.

J.D. Power is the source of information for this article. It was accurate on November 30, 2021, but it may have changed since that date.

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