Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Automated Vehicles, United States, 2021: Examining the Alignment Between Preferences for Adoption and Perceived Safety
This study examined how well people’s attitudes regarding automated vehicles adoption were aligned with their perceptions of the safety of driving or riding in automated vehicles.
As emerging transportation technologies continue to evolve and society acknowledges the potential benefits, various automated technologies are becoming more prevalent and affordable in new vehicles. In conjunction with this trend, there have been increasing calls for some vehicle technologies to be equipped in all new vehicles to improve traffic safety. Efforts to help expedite this movement are critical to leverage the reported potential benefits through large-scale deployment of automated vehicles (AVs). To this end, additional studies to better understand public perceptions and attitudes towards AVs are necessary to continue to promote the adoption of AVs.
Past research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has examined public trust in, potential adoption of, and concerns about different levels of AVs and how these measures have changed over time. As a follow-up, this study focused on examining how well people’s attitudes regarding AV adoption were aligned with their perceptions of the safety of driving or riding in AVs.
Overall, the most preferred AV level for ownership was Level 3 (23%); however, the propensity varied by age group and gender. Respondents under 40 years old and males tended to prefer higher AV levels (Levels 4 and 5). Similarly, the AV level in which the greatest proportion of respondents (24%) indicated they would feel safest was Level 3, while respondents under 40 years old and males were more likely to feel safest in higher-level AVs. In general, people’s propensities about AV adoption and perceived safety remained consistent (or similar) compared to those in past years’ survey responses.
For about three in four respondents, the AV level they would prefer to own and the level in which they would feel safest were aligned. Among those whose responses were mismatched, the majority (78%) felt a lower level of AV would be safer than the level they would prefer to own. Additionally, respondents whose responses were mismatched tended to be more concerned about the majority of potential AV issues examined in this study (e.g., technology malfunction, lack of driving control) compared to those whose responses were aligned.
The data came from the Traffic Safety Culture Index, a national online survey carried out annually in the U.S. by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Descriptive analyses were conducted using cross-tabulations to examine people’s attitudes towards AV adoption and perceived safety of AVs in relation to demographic factors. Additionally, this study explored how well respondents’ attitudes towards AV adoption aligned with their perceived safety of AVs. All analyses were conducted based on weighted data, and the corrected Pearson F test was used to test for significance.