A new survey from US construction and engineering firm HNTB Corporation found that more than half of Americans (52%) believe they are familiar with or knowledgeable about autonomous vehicles. Of these, 58% believe that autonomous vehicles will be commonplace on streets and highways within 10 years. In addition, 57% are willing to ride in them, and slightly more than half (51%) believe they are safer than people-driven vehicles.
The HNTB America THINKS national public opinion survey also asked Americans what they would do while riding in an autonomous vehicle instead of driving. Two-thirds of respondents (66%) believe they will most likely spend their time looking out the windows of their vehicles, while 42% would spend their time texting or talking. This was followed by watching movies or playing games (29%), sleeping (25%) and working (17%).
Jim Barbaresso, HNTB’s intelligent transportation systems national practice leader and senior vice president, said, “As we become more knowledgeable about, and comfortable with, autonomous vehicles, people will begin to recognize and value the economic and social benefits offered by these technologies.
“For example, people who are disabled or elderly and unable to drive themselves will experience the freedom and convenience of mobility. Autonomous vehicles will help improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles. And they offer the promise of more effective management of roadway congestion.”
The survey found that among all survey respondents, the single most important benefit of autonomous vehicles was increased mobility for non-drivers (52%). Reduced accidents and increased safety were cited by 43% of respondents, while improvements to the environment along with improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists were each cited by 23% of respondents.
HNTB’s survey also found that among all survey respondents, an overwhelming 91% believe autonomous vehicles should be required to have a person on board who could override the automation in the event of an emergency. Privacy concerns associated with the data generated by autonomous vehicles was cited by 63% of respondents.
“There are continuing concerns about how the immense amounts of data produced by autonomous vehicles will be managed, by whom, and the potential impacts that this could have not only on privacy but the ability to insure the safe operation of these vehicles altogether,” said Barbaresso.
“It really comes down to trust – does the public trust automated vehicle technologies? The level of trust will likely increase as the technologies supporting automated driving become more mature and commonplace.”
Additionally, liability in the event of a collision was identified by 56% of respondents as the single greatest concern associated with the implementation of autonomous vehicles, followed by cybersecurity/potential to hack the vehicles (53%). The cost of updating existing infrastructure to safely support autonomous vehicles was noted by 44% of respondents.
“The evolution of autonomous-vehicle technology is likely to change the look and feel of our roadways and cities as well as transform our concept of mobility,” added Barbaresso.
HNTB’s America THINKS survey, Sharing the Road with Autonomous Vehicles-2019, polled a random nationwide sample of 1,018 Americans, aged 18 and older, between April 5 and April 8, 2019. It was conducted by Russell Research, which used an email invitation and online survey.