Consumer confidence in fully automated, self-driving vehicles continued to decline for a second consecutive year, according to market data and analytics provider J.D. Power.
The index score for consumer automated vehicle (AV) readiness declined 2 points to 37 (on a 100-point scale), contributing to the 5-point decline from 2021. Consumers showed low readiness on all metrics, with the lowest level of comfort riding in a fully automated, self-driving vehicle and using fully automated, self-driving public transit.
The numbers came from the J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Mobility Confidence Index (MCI) Study, conducted in collaboration with the MIT Advanced Vehicle Technology (AVT) Consortium.
Despite that skepticism, the researchers said that public opinion and consumer comfort are affected by a lack of general knowledge about AV technology development, compounded by media coverage that highlights robotaxi and testing failures.
As proof, they pointed to results within the study showing that consumer comfort is higher in the West region of the country, a region familiar with AV testing and deployments. Specifically, confidence soared for consumers who have ridden in a robotaxi in Phoenix or San Francisco, reaching an MCI index score of 67, which is almost double the index score (37) of those who haven’t ridden in a robotaxi, and is indicative of experience being critical to full-scale AV adoption.
Another hurdle is the adoption of fully automated cars is a lack of accurate information in the market. The percentage of consumers who believe fully automated, self-driving vehicles are available today has increased across all transportation modalities. For example, consumers are able to accurately cite examples of available AV delivery services (e.g., Amazon, Domino’s), robotaxis (e.g., Waymo, Cruise, Uber), and commercial transport applications. However, consumers inaccurately cite examples of personal vehicles available to purchase or lease today, as 22% indicate that “Tesla” or “Autopilot” are fully automated, the study found.
“Experience with automation appears to greatly improve confidence in the technology. As trust is built over time but eroded quickly, stakeholders may need to find new ways to proactively educate potential users on the advantages and current limitations of vehicle automation systems,” Bryan Reimer, a research scientist in the AgeLab at the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics and a founder of MIT’s Advanced Vehicle Technology (AVT) Consortium, said in a release. “Automated driving technology is still very much in an evolving and testing stage with improvements occurring quickly. Consumers’ understanding of where we are on the path to long-term automated mobility needs to be calibrated as today’s systems are not designed to enable more risky driving.”
The study is based on responses from 3,000 vehicle owners in the U.S. age 18 and older who completed a 15-minute online survey in July 2023.