- Self-driving cars are supposed to be safer than our current deadly streets — but reporting on the small number of autonomous crashes has consumers worried.
- A new report from the consulting firm Deloitte shows worries ticked up in 2019 compared to the previous years.
- The authors say regulation will be key to assuaging fears and catalyzing mass adoption.
More self-driving cars than ever before are hitting the roads. But while their rollout has plenty of people excited about the autonomous future, some people need a little more convincing, according to new research from the consulting firm Deloitte.
For the past three years, the firm has surveyed more than 25,000 people in 20 countries about their views on autonomous vehicles. In a few major countries, including the United States, Germany, and India, the fraction of people who say self-driving cars won’t be safe bucked the trend and increased in 2019.
That’s not good news for the companies racing to put their self-driving cars on the roads. So far, only Alphabet’s Waymo has launched a commercial service, and even that still requires human safety drivers to monitor for any glitches.
Media coverage of accidents isn’t helping
“Widespread coverage of even the very small number of accidents involving AVs may be shaping public perception,” Craig Giffi, the firm’s national automotive industry leader, said in the report.
“Nearly two-thirds of consumers in Republic of Korea, the United States, India, and China agree that media reports of accidents involving AVs have made them more cautious of the technology.”
While there aren’t comprehensive statistics available for self-driving car crashes, the very small number of incidents has garnered a lot of attention given the secretive nature of many of the companies developing them and how new the technology is.
Nationwide, there are an estimated five million crashes every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In California, there were 75 reported crashes last year, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
The Deloitte study also found that consumers are losing faith that traditional automakers, many of which are scrambling to invest in the nascent space, will be able to successfully launch their own autonomous products.
“Consumer trust in traditional original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) bringing AV technology to market continues to slip,” the study says.
“Even in Germany, where trust in OEMs has traditionally been fairly solid, this proportion has dropped to 33 percent from 51 percent in 2017. This may be due, in part, to the black eye German automakers suffered in the wake of the ‘dieselgate’ scandal.”
So what needs to change?
Electrification will help mass adoption, according to Deloitte, but the United States has the lowest share of electric vehicles of all the countries surveyed, with 71% of cars on the road today still guzzling gas.
Regulation could help that, the authors say.
“Given that consumer interest in AVs has stalled, governments should provide regulatory leadership,” the researchers write. “Establishing critical standards for AV development and use could address safety concerns, and it may also help the industry converge on technology solutions while reducing the cost of regulatory compliance.”