AAA Survey Finds Drivers Aren’t Fully Comfortable with Autonomy

The American Automobile Association (AAA), headquartered in Heathrow, Fla., found that drivers aren’t fully sold on autonomous vehicles and that COVID had very little impact, in its annual automated vehicle survey. The survey concluded that most drivers are interested in advanced vehicle technologies, like having information displayed across their windshields, but most aren’t ready for fully self-driving/autonomous cars.

Photo courtesy of AAA.

According to the survey, only 22% of people feel auto manufacturers should focus on developing self-driving vehicles. Meanwhile 80% of drivers said they want current vehicle safety systems to work better, 58% said they want to see some autonomous systems in their next vehicle.

“People are ready to embrace new vehicle technology, especially if it will make driving safer,” said Greg Brannon, AAA automotive engineering and industry relations director. “Consumers are clear about what they want and if automakers seize the opportunity to provide a better experience now, it will pave the way for the vehicles of tomorrow.”

The survey was conducted January 15-17, 2021, using a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population overall, according to AAA. The panel provided sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. A total of 1,010 interviews were completed among U.S. adults, 18 years of age or older.


Nearly 96% of 2020 vehicle models came equipped with at least one Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), which can include head up displays for windshields, parking assist and emergency braking, according to the survey. Consumers who buy new vehicles will likely have at least one type of vehicle safety system and according to AAA, it could be their first interaction with the technology.

“Previous AAA research has found that some systems, particularly those that provide the highest level of automation available to the public, do not always work as expected,” a portion of the survey reads. “These negative experiences could influence driver opinion of future vehicle automation. It also reinforces the need for manufacturers to continue to hone vehicle technology by expanding testing and focusing on including more real-world scenarios encountered by drivers.”

COVID-19 Impact                                                            

In the survey AAA asked drivers if COVID-19 influenced their decision to use an autonomous vehicle as an alternative to public transportation or ride-hailing. The results showed a “relatively small number” who said they would be more likely to opt for a self-driving vehicle, but a larger number said COVID-19 would make no difference in affecting their decision.

“Transparent, accurate and frequent information from the industries involved in developing self-driving vehicles and new technology will ease consumer concerns,” said Brannon.

“Our latest AAA survey showed people are ready to embrace new vehicle technology, especially if it will make driving safer,” said Marie Dodds, AAA Oregon/Idaho public affairs director.

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