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AAA Survey Finds Many Don't Trust Driverless Cars, But Like The Technology

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
One of Uber's self-driving cars pictured at the company's Advanced Technologies Center in the Strip District on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

A new survey published by AAA finds Americans are not yet ready to fully trust self-driving cars.

The study reports that 54 percent of drivers surveyed felt less safe sharing the road with autonomous vehicles and 78 percent would be afraid to ride in an autonomous car.

However, drivers are interested in some of the innovations used by autonomous cars -- more than half said they'd like to have autonomous technology in their next car. 

“The lane warning, the automatic breaking, the adaptive cruise control, those types of things," said Herman Jenkins, AAA East Central spokesman. 

Credit AAA
Drivers don't feel safe around autonomous cars but they like the technology behind them

Jenkins said AAA plans to make this an annual study and that he thinks the numbers will change over time.

“But it’s going to go in levels,” Jenkins said. “So right now, we’re at level two with the automatic breaking and lane changing. And as more technology is tested, the public will become more comfortable with it.”

It might come as no surprise that as a respondents' age decreased, their reported trust in self-driving cars increases. For example, 60 percent of Baby Boomers reported feeling less safe around driverless cars compared to 56 percent of Generation X participants and 41 percent of Millennials.

Earlier this month, local advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh kicked off an online survey to find out how cyclists and pedestrians feel about the self-driving cars often seen roaming around city streets.  

“We do see real potential safety benefits from removing humans from the operation of cars,” said Bike Pittsburgh spokeswoman Alex Shewczyk. “However, we don’t appreciate being guinea pigs for this experiment, so we just want to make sure that everything is safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

AAA has come out in support of autonomous vehicles as a way to improve road safety and save lives, but only if it is fully tested. To that end, company officials said they plan to continue to educate drivers and to push for rigorous testing of emerging technologies.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.