Consumers seem to have mixed feelings about driverless cars. However, being sceptical, new research from the University of Exeter has found that it’s possible they could change their minds in the future, as drivers are less likely to blame automatic vehicles for mistakes.
This goes against previous research, including a study carried out by the University of Washington, who previously found that consumers aren’t too enthusiastic about the technology, saying they feel more comfortable being in control of the driver’s seat.
The researchers surveyed over 500 US consumers. They found that consumers didn’t feel ready to let their cars drive for them, and many felt more comfortable being in control in the driver’s seat.
In the survey, participants were asked whether they would prefer to drive themselves or use a rideshare app for a 15-mile drive. Half of the participants were told that the rideshare would be in a self-driving vehicle.
The researchers conducted the study in order to get a better understanding of how drivers respond to hypothetical scenarios with human drivers vs those with automatic vehicles. In the study, the researchers asked consumers to think about who would be at fault in these scenarios.
In some of the situations put to consumers, the drivers were at fault and in others the cars were at fault. In some, both were at fault. The results indicated that consumers believed drivers were at fault more often than automatic vehicles.
In addition, the researchers found that consumers were much more likely to blame accidents on other drivers, rather than the self-driving car, especially in cases where both were at fault. This contradicts previous predictions that consumers wouldn’t trust automated vehicles.
According to the study’s authors, this could affect safety features on these vehicles in the future, especially if public perceptions are biased. However, ultimately, these findings are very important, especially if self-driving cars are to become mainstream.
The researchers wrote: “We find that when only one driver makes an error, that driver is blamed more regardless of whether that driver is a machine or human. However, when both drivers make errors in cases of human-machine shared-control vehicles, the blame attributed to the malfunctioning is reduced. It seems like if we leave it to the general public, they may unintentionally go soft on [autonomous vehicle] manufacturers to improve their safety standards.”