Autonomous Vehicle Safety Remains a Consumer Roadblock

Consumers expect improvements in the safety of autonomous vehicles, yet they still want to be able to take over the wheel at any time, according to the results of a TÜV Rheinland survey of more than 1,000 licensed drivers aged 18 or older in China, Germany and the US.

The study also found trust in the technology behind completely autonomous cars is nearly twice as high in China as in the other two countries.

However, fear of cybercrime around autonomous vehicles is widespread among global motorists, with more than three quarters — 76% — of respondents in Germany fearing personal data could fall into unauthorized hands when using autonomous vehicles.

For drivers in the US, having a permanent option for the driver to take full control of the vehicle was the top priority — 47% — followed by proof of functional safety through tests — 45% — and the protection of the car against unauthorized access — 43%.

Safety was a primary motivation for sharing data, with between 30% and 50% of motorists surveyed in all three countries indicating a specific desire to make their data available for breakdown assistance services, car insurance companies and other organizations.

However, the survey indicated motorists are less willing to transmit their data to service and mobility providers, particular data app providers, automotive suppliers, automobile dealers and infrastructure operators such as gas stations.

Respondents in all three countries appeared to worry autonomous cars could lead to increased vehicle crime due to people accessing the vehicles through technical means and data theft — and a majority of respondents said they think the systems of future cars should be updated automatically over-the-air as a defense against cyber criminals.

More than 63% of respondents in China said they believe driverless cars will increase road safety, while the figure dropped to 34% in Germany and the US.

“When we see large swaths of motorists in China, Germany, and the USA share a belief that road safety will decrease as automation increases, it tells us we must give people much more information and communicate the benefits of autonomous technology more clearly,” Dr. Matthias Schubert, executive vice president of mobility at TÜV Rheinland, wrote in the report.

When it comes to sharing of data, 42% of US drivers surveyed reported it is fine to pass on their data for updating and using new services, for instance telematics services such as parking space finders.

However, 55% of respondents in the US told researchers that they are not well informed about which data is used for which purpose, who has access to the data and how well-protected the data is.

The survey follows AAA’s annual report on American drivers’ perceptions of self-driving vehicle safety, which was released in January.

That study found drivers are beginning to embrace self-driving vehicles, with 63% of US drivers reporting feeling afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, a significant drop from 78% in early 2017.

Still, Americans still appear wary of driving alongside autonomous vehicles with only 13% of US drivers reported they would feel safer sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle, while close to half reported that they would actually feel less safe.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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