Autonomous driving: consumer vs investment perspective

Many consumers regard skydiving and swimming with sharks as safer than riding in an AV, writes Megan Lampinen

Industry excitement for autonomous vehicles (AVs) continues to build as companies step up pilot projects and launch commercial deployments. In California alone, more than 60 companies hold an active permit allowing them to test AVs, with a safety driver, in the state. Others are offering services to members of the public. Lyft claims to be the largest public self-driving commercial platform in the US and at the end of 2020 marked more than 100,000 paid rider trips. GM’s self-driving car service Cruise has similar ambitions and was just given the green light to offer driverless ride services to members of the public in California.

The feedback from players like Cruise and Lyft has been overwhelmingly positive. Lyft says that 96% of riders want to ride again once they’ve taken a self-driving trip and 98% rated their self-driving ride 5 star. But other surveys highlight concerns.

An American Automobile Association (AAA) survey conducted in January 2021 found just 14% of drivers trust a car to do all the driving. A notable 85% of respondents were either too afraid to even try an AV (54%) or unsure (32%). Similar hesitancy was uncovered in a more recent survey of American consumers by Lynx Software Technologies, conducted in May this year. Among the more notable findings was the fact that 80% of people trust a human pilot over a self-driving vehicle, but more than 50% of the respondents admit to breaking the laws of the road on at least a weekly basis.

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