The technology develops further every day, but what will it take for the public to more widely embrace the idea of travelling in a self-driving vehicle?
Ask a regulator or a car manufacturer and they’ll tell you about a near-future where cars are controlled by machines and road safety is on the increase, but what does the public think about that?
Despite the strides being made towards automation, the public doesn’t yet seem ready to fully embrace the idea – so, how do you bridge the gap between consumer wariness and a desired future where an increasing number of cars will be driving themselves?
Almost three out of every four Americans claim to be scared at the prospect of riding in a fully self-driving vehicle, so a recent AAA study claims. Big though that number seems, it’s perhaps not surprising when weighed against the relatively limited number of people likely to have travelled in an autonomous vehicle or even to have experience of an advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS).
When self-driving vehicles are concerned, experience seems to be everything. The AAA study said drivers who regularly interacted with ADAS components (like lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and self-parking) were 68% more likely to trust these features than those who hadn’t experienced them.
The study also said experiencing automation can play a key role in changing perceptions. This makes sense. The public is often wary about new technology until it comes into regular contact, sees the benefit firsthand, and establishes some familiarity.
As the number of cars equipped with ADAS grows, so does their potential. As familiarization increases, the theory goes, so will the appetite for further automation that can enhance safety and improve the driving experience.
At HERE, we apply location intelligence to help create the automation features of the future. For example, HERE Electronic Horizon already translates map information with detailed road characteristics into actionable data for ADAS and autonomous driving applications, making them more reliable and extending their awareness beyond sensor limits.
At some point, however, drivers will have to accept a switch from being supported by automation features while in control of the vehicle, to actually relinquishing control and letting those systems take over. Could a semi-autonomous system prove to be a useful stepping stone?
A semi-autonomous system is one where the car takes control - perhaps for a set period or task like piloting a traffic jam or cruising a freeway - but with the driver attentive and in overall command.
Advances in semi-autonomous systems are being made all the time. In fact, German auto parts supplier ZF recently unveiled a new semi-autonomous system that uses artificial intelligence alongside sensors to perform various functions like recognizing traffic conditions, sensing vehicle handling and monitoring the driver. It’s claimed the system will even pre-empt hazardous situations through active control intervention.
As a further indication that US consumers are prepared to make incremental moves towards automation, the AAA study also said that limited applications – low-speed, short distance forms of transportation – were already acceptable to over half of Americans.
That market revenues for ADAS are estimated to grow by 27% over the next five years could be an indicator of how the public is likely to become increasingly keen on autonomous features.
More compelling yet, are the findings of a further consumer study that found a quarter would prefer a ride in a self-driving car over a traditional vehicle in a year’s time, but that over half would prefer the autonomous transport option by 2024.
Fully autonomous vehicles will use services like HERE HD Live Map to enable the ability to understand precise positioning, plan beyond sensor visibility, possess contextual awareness of the environment and local knowledge of the road rules.
If consumers are already preparing themselves to prefer automated vehicles, then widespread acceptance of the technology is looking brighter by the minute.