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Consumers are concerned about self-driving cars. That’s according to J.D. Power’s inaugural 2019 Mobility Confidence Index Study published today in collaboration with SurveyMonkey, which found that a majority of the 5,749 respondents harbor doubts about the technology’s robustness.

“Out of the box, these scores are not encouraging,” said J.D. executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface research Kristin Kolodge. “As automakers head down the developmental road to self-driving vehicles and greater electrification, it’s important to know if consumers are on the same road — and headed in the same direction. That doesn’t seem to be the case right now.”

Asked to rate on a 100-point scale their confidence in self-driving cars (with scores of 0-40 corresponding to low confidence and scores 61-100 corresponding to high confidence), respondents scored comfort about riding in them low (34) and sharing the road with others in them equally low (35). Moreover, they were generally skeptical that self-driving services — including public transit, delivery, taxi services, and ride-hailing networks — will arrive within 5-6 years, with most predicting it’ll take closer to a decade.

That’s roughly in line with results from a PSB Research survey commissioned by Intel last year, which indicated that nearly half (43%) of people don’t feel safe around them. A recent CarGuru survey of 1,146 automobile owners found that 87% wouldn’t rely on self-driving cars given the choice, meanwhile. And last year, the Brookings Institution, think tank HNTB, and the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS) reported separately that most people weren’t inclined to ride in autonomous cars of any kind.


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A whopping 71% of consumers told J.D. Power and SurveyMonkey that they’re worried about driverless system failures or errors, while 57% and 55% said they fear vehicle hacks and legal liability, respectively. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the percentages roughly correlate with the number of survey-takers (66%) who admitted to having “little to no knowledge” about self-driving vehicles.

Folks appear to be split about whether driverless cars will improve traffic safety, with 40% believing they’ll improve it and 40% saying they’ll make it worse. Broken down along generational lines, 52% of Gen Z and 45% of Gen Y consumer say driverless cars will cut down on accidents, while 49% of Boomers think they won’t.

That’s despite the fact that about 94% of car crashes are caused by human error and that in 2016 the top three causes of traffic fatalities were distracted driving, drunk driving, and speeding. According to the National Safety Council, Americans’ odds of dying in a car crash are one in 114.

“Manufacturers need to learn where consumers are in terms of comprehending and accepting new mobility technologies — and what needs to be done,” said Kolodge.

They’ll have to learn quickly. According to marketing firm ABI, as many as 8 million driverless cars will be added to the road in 2025, and analysts at Research and Markets are predicting there will be some 20 million autonomous cars in operation in the U.S. alone by 2030.

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