Ford Authority

Consumer Trust In Self-Driving Car Tech Lower Now Than A Year Ago

Consumer trust in autonomous vehicle technology is lower now than it was just a year ago, according to J.D. Power’s 2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study.

As Edmunds reports, the results from J.D. Power’s latest study suggest that confidence in self-driving car technology has fallen from last year among every age group surveyed except for Generation Y (a.k.a. “Millennials,” or those born from 1977 to 1994). Even Generation Z (born from 1995 to 2004) expressed less faith in vehicle autonomy this year than last, with 11 percent more Gen-Z respondents saying they “definitely would not” trust self-driving cars.

“In most cases, as technology concepts get closer to becoming reality, consumer curiosity and acceptance increase,” says J.D. Power’s Executive Director of Driver Interaction and Human Machine Interface Research, Kristin Kolodge. “With autonomous vehicles, we see a pattern where trust drives interest in the technology, and right now the level of trust is declining.”

The Ford Authority Take

It seems probable that consumer confidence has been shaken by some of the more-publicized instances of accidents involving self-driving (or semi-autonomous) cars, such as last year’s fatal crash of a 2015 Tesla Model S that had been operating in “Autopilot” mode at the time, and failed to detect a semi truck that had turned out in front of it. Edmunds reports that the NHTSA found the car’s Autopilot system to not be at fault, but incidents like these do little to effect confidence among the public.

We also might contend that the media has been guilty of a fair bit of “overselling” in how it covers self-driving car technology, often touting it as a perfect, bug-free solution to every conceivable traffic accident scenario, while in reality, technology that even approaches that benchmark is still years away. This – we would imagine – had the effect of creating a false sense of infallibility before automakers and tech companies started widely testing prototypes, which was then handily undermined when testing ramped up and news outlets began reporting on the inevitable crashes.

Meanwhile, J.D. Power’s survey respondents indicated that they were generally more open to active driver assists like adaptive headlights, collision-warning systems with automatic braking, and lane change alerts. Whether that later feeds into a rebound of confidence in self-driving car technology remains to be seen.

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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