78% of US Adults Afraid to Ride in a Self-Driving Car

New study from AAA shows trepidation over fully self-driving cars—but a majority still want autonomous technology in their next vehicle.

Survey: Baby boomers hesitant to get behind wheel of self-driving cars
San Jose Mercury News—TNS via Getty Images

According to a new study by the American Automobile Association, 78 percent of Americans are afraid of traveling in a self-driving car—a figure unchanged from a year ago, despite the massive amount of hype surrounding the new technology.

And yet, more than half of those surveyed, at 59 percent, still want autonomous technology in their new vehicle. Only around 10 percent of those surveyed said they'd feel safer in an autonomous vehicle. 

“A great race towards autonomy is underway and companies are vying to introduce the first driverless cars to our roadways,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations, as quoted on the AAA Newsroom site. “However, while U.S. drivers are eager to buy vehicles equipped with autonomous technology, they continue to fear a fully self-driving vehicle.”

Fear and Yearning in Self-Driving

Notable takeaways from the survey, which covered 1,012 adults (18 years and above) in the continental United States, include:

  • Half (54%) of U.S. drivers feel less safe at the prospect of sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle, while one-third (34%) feel it wouldn’t make a difference and only 10 percent say they would feel safer.
    • Women (58%) are more likely to feel less safe than men (49%).
    • Baby Boomers (60%) are more likely to feel less safe than Generation X (56%) or Millennials (41%)
  • The majority (59%) of U.S. drivers want autonomous vehicle technology in their next vehicle, while the remainder do not (25%) or are unsure (16%).
    • Millennials (70%) are the most likely to want the technologies, compared to Generation X (54%) and Baby Boomers (51%).
  • Three-quarters (78%) of Americans are afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle.
    • Baby Boomers (85%) are more likely to be afraid than Millennials (73%) and Generation X (75%) drivers.
    • Women (85%) are more likely to be afraid than men (69%).

You can see the study's fact sheet here.