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Is autonomous driving good or bad? Depends who you talk to

21,000 people were surveyed online about their views on autonomous driving

Published: October 1, 2019, 10:30 PM
Updated: October 9, 2019, 2:35 AM

Audi A7 Sportback Piloted Driving concept

An Ipsos survey has shown that there is a lot of curiosity around the globe about autonomous driving, but the level of acceptance is mixed according to lifestyle and delineated along sociodemographic groupings.

Audi's semi-autonomous A8

The online study titled “The Pulse of Autonomous Driving,” conducted by global market research and analysis giant Ipsos under the initiative &Audi, interviewed 21,000 people about their views on autonomous driving. The study involved respondents in China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the UK and the US, with the goal of using results to improve development and aid in regulation.

“This study is more than just a welcome addition to our knowledge about the phenomenon of autonomous driving,” says Dr Luciano Floridi, professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information and director of the Digital Ethics Lab, University of Oxford, and member of the scientific network of the initiative &Audi. “It is a necessary step for any policy- and law-making decision, as well as any R&D and business strategy that intends to be proactive and informed in delivering a better world.”

Autonomous driving

Overall, the study found there is strong interest in autonomous driving — 82% of respondents expressed an interest in the technology and 62% were curious about it. The interest arose from the way autonomous driving would improve mobility for all (76%), greater convenience (72%) and safety (59%).

“Automated and autonomous driving has the potential to improve our mobility substantially,” says Thomas Müller, head of Automated Driving at Audi. “On the way there, alongside technical development, it is of decisive importance to convince people. The study provides us with differentiated insights about where people stand in relation to autonomous driving and how we can establish suitable expectations about the new technology in society.”

Autonomous vehicle communicating with pedestrians

On the other hand, only 8% of respondents feel they can explain the system. There is also great concern about loss of control (70%) and unavoidable residual risks (66%), resulting in 41% being suspicious of the technology and 38% anxious about it.

Geographically, the study graded respondents on a human readiness index (HRI) based on their knowledge, interest emotions and readiness to adopt the technology. The HRI score lies between -10 and +10. It found the Chinese were most excited about it (HRI +5.1), with South Koreans above average (+1.2) in the positive viewpoint. In Europe, Italians and Spaniards are most excited about it (+0.7), with French and Germans more reserved about it (-0.7), as are Americans, British and Japanese in the rest of the world (-0.9).

Audi's semi-autonomous A8

The study group responders into five groups, based on their attitudes toward autonomous driving — the “suspicious driver” likes to stick with what already exists and would use autonomous driving only if it had become fully established, “safety-oriented reluctants” believe that autonomous cars should first be tested for years before being allowed on the road, “open-minded co-pilots” see the benefits of the technology and desire measures from the fields of business, science and politics to put the cars on the road safely, “status-oriented trendsetters” are enthusiastic about self-driving cars because they can demonstrate their progressive lifestyles, and “tech-savvy passengers” trust the technology completely and want it introduced across the board.