People are still wary of self-driving cars, but reluctance drops after they try driver-assist features, study says

Most people still say they wouldn’t buy a self-driving vehicle, but they become far more open to the idea after they try cars with automatic driver-assist features.

That’s according to a survey conducted by global consulting firm AlixPartners.

Only 18% of those surveyed reported personal experience with driver-assist features such as automatic braking, lane keeping and adaptive cruise control. Among those, 49% said they are “confident” or “very confident” of driverless cars, 21% are neutral and 31% are not confident.

Of respondents with no experience with self-driving features, only 28% said they were confident or very confident of driverless cars.

“When people get experience with these technologies, they really do get more confident,” said Mark Wakefield, a managing director at the firm.

In his experience, the conversion is quick. “It must be something about how the brain works. Once the car makes a few turns on its own, people become very comfortable with it. Maybe too comfortable.”

Although today’s self-driving features can handle a wide variety of driving conditions, there remain plenty of “corner cases,” or complicated situations that self-driving cars can’t handle. That’s why most automakers are taking a gradual approach to development, and why drivers are expected to pay full attention, even when a car is driving itself.

Cost may be a problem, though. People who say they’d buy vehicles with driverless technology say they’d pay, on average, $2,600 more. Even assuming widespread popularity and economies of scale, Wakefield said, the option would cost at least hundreds of dollars more than that.

Twitter: @russ1mitchell


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