A red Tesla car, yesterday

Trust in safety of autonomous vehicles still low, but future prospects more promising

Image credit: Tesla

Swimming with sharks would be preferable to riding in an autonomous vehicle today for over one-third of US citizens, according to a survey, although over half expect to eventually own one. Meanwhile, Tesla – known for the controversial semi-autonomous Autopilot driving mode in its cars – has been rated the number one luxury dream car for people based on the volume of web searches.

A consumer survey from Lynx Software Technologies has revealed that a large majority of US adults remain wary of the safety of self-driving vehicles, although many are still excited about the potential advancements they could bring.

The poll of 1,000 employed US adults, conducted on May 21, revealed that despite the fact that a quarter of all respondents (26 per cent) admitted to breaking the law while driving, a whopping 80 per cent still trust a human pilot over a self-driving car. Overall sentiment was positive, however, with the majority of respondents (52 per cent) excited by the prospect of autonomous vehicles, while only 30 per cent felt uncertain and 14 per cent were fearful of the concept.

Lynx, which provides safety and security solutions for automotive and other high risk environments, sponsored a survey of 1,000 US citizens, who indicated that, while many are looking forward to riding in autonomous vehicles, only 36 per cent are eager to give up full control when behind the wheel. When it comes to public transit, however, 57 per cent of consumers would use an autonomously operated train, bus or taxi, with 56 per cent of respondents expressing excitement over the future adventure of personal air transportation.

“The future of self-driving automobiles on the roads and flying taxis in the sky might be further than we once thought, but it is inspiring to learn about consumer sentiment toward these technological advancements,” said Arun Subbarao, vice president of engineering and technology at Lynx.

“It is critical that we listen to their concerns as well while these are being developed, so that we can teach consumers about the safety that is being integrated and ensure the proof is in the testing and the results. There is nothing more important than making this new transportation secure.”

Other survey findings included:

  • Half of respondents plan to eventually own an autonomous vehicle, with an additional 26 per cent saying they would consider it.
  • The ability to work while driving was the most frequent reason (58 per cent) for wanting a self-driving car, followed by the ability to travel farther without a break (53 per cent) and to eat while driving (47 per cent).
  • When it comes to the perceived risks associated with autonomous vehicles, nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents would rather go sky-diving and a third (34 per cent) would rather swim with sharks than ride in a self-driven automobile.
  • 35 per cent of respondents do not believe autonomous vehicles are safe today, with 65 per cent citing not enough testing as a roadblock to adoption.
  • Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of respondents expected a majority of people would regularly use some type of autonomous vehicle by 2041.

As the industry continues to advance autonomous vehicles and introduce them to consumers’ lives both on the ground and in the sky, it will be critical that organisations consider not only how to make the vehicles efficient and affordable, but also completely faultless in their safety. Lynx is positioning its LynxSecure and MOSA.ic platforms as possible technology solutions for the real-time, high-assurance computing requirements in high-risk environments such as self-driving vehicles.

Fully autonomous vehicles are slowly inching their way onto the world's roads, although private cars are still largely stalled at Level 2 autonomy, which is only semi-autonomous at best. This means that certain functions of the car, such as acceleration, braking and steering can be computer controlled - e.g. adaptive cruise control - but a human driver should remain in the driver's seat at all times, poised to take over the controls immediately if road conditions demand it.

Tesla produces some of the most popular semi-autonomous cars, which have been erroneously perceived by some people as a fully self-driving vehicle, possibly due to its autonomous functions being mischievously named 'Autopilot' when in fact all models are still only Level 2.

Tesla has been the subject of unwelcome attention in recent years, including fatal accidents attributed to aspects of the cars' unique design; battery issues, and phantom braking concerns.

However, the all-electric car marque received a reputational boost this week, when a survey by Spanish driving footwear company Vandel named Tesla as Europe’s most sought-after luxury car brand.

Based on monthly online searches for 15 luxury car brands across 32 European countries, Tesla took the top spot with 3.9 million online searches, coming first in 20 out of the 32 countries reviewed. BMW (3 million monthly searches) and Audi (2.4 million) took second and third place respectively.

The top five most searched luxury cars were Tesla, BMW, Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini, with Tesla’s top fans apparently in Germany, the UK and France. In the UK alone, there were over 547,000 monthly searches for Tesla. Overall, Germany was the most car-obsessed country, racking up 2.9 million monthly searches across 15 different luxury car brands. Even there, Tesla was the most popular luxury car brand, taking in nearly double the number of monthly searches compared to BMW (974,000 vs 489,000).

With Tesla being the only electric-first brand in the list, sustainability also appears to be a driving factor. Notable environmentally conscious countries such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark all chose Tesla as their go-to luxury brand.

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