Mar 15, 2019

Self-driving cars and the fear of the unknown

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The more exposure people have to emergency braking or adaptive cruise control, the more comfortable they become with assisted-driving technologies, says AAA, suggesting they could eventually be won over by self-driving cars, too.

The big picture: Automakers and tech companies are pouring billions of dollars into self-driving cars, even though consumers are lukewarm on the technology and the path to making money on AVs is unclear. While technology and regulatory hurdles remain, trust is the number one issue holding them back.

By the numbers, per a new AAA study:

  • 71% of U.S. drivers would be afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle, virtually unchanged from a year ago (73%) following several high-profile fatalities.
  • In contrast, 53% said they would be comfortable with low-speed AVs at airports or theme parks.
  • 44% said they would be comfortable having food or packages delivered by a self-driving vehicle.
  • 19% said they would be comfortable using an AV to transport their children or loved ones.

Fear of the unknown could be a factor. AAA found that people who already have features like lane-keeping assistance in their car were far more likely (82%) to trust it than people who don't (50%).

  • 72% who have adaptive cruise control on their car said they trust it, vs. 39% among those who don't have it.
  • 74% who have automatic emergency braking trust it, vs. 38% who don't have it.
  • Crash avoidance systems do make cars safer, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says, but there are inconsistencies in performance.

Small doses of increasing autonomy could help build confidence. Instead of the sexy moonshot — deploying fully driverless vehicles all across America — some companies are looking to master little feats that help validate their technology and build trust with consumers.

Education efforts are expanding, too.

  • In January, a coalition of automakers, tech companies and safety organizations launched an education campaign called PAVE.
  • Waymo, which runs a limited robotaxi service in Phoenix, this week expanded its Let's Talk Self-Driving campaign to northern California in partnership with AAA and other organizations.

What to watch: Cruise, GM's self-driving unit, plans to launch a driverless taxi service later this year in San Francisco, which could give more consumers another opportunity to try out an AV.

What's next: Despite their fears, most Americans think AV technology is coming. A decade from now, 55% of drivers think most cars will have the ability to drive themselves.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 a.m. ET: 664,695 — Total deaths: 30,847 — Total recoveries: 140,156.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 1 a.m. ET: 124,464 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by late Saturday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Trump rules out quarantine in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut after pushback

President Trump on the White House grounds on Saturdya. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Saturday night that he's decided not to introduce quarantine enforcement measures fo New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut, but a "strong" travel advisory will be issued for those states. The CDC later announced domestic travel restrictions for the states.

Why it matters: Trump said hours earlier he was considering quarantine measures to combat the rise in novel coronavirus cases. But he received pushback, notably from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who told CNN such a measure would cause "chaos." "This would be a federal declaration of war on states," Cuomo added.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 5 hours ago - Health