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People who know more about self-driving technology trust it more
People who know more about self-driving technology trust it more

Enlarge (credit: Natalya Burova/Getty Images)

Robotaxis have a real public image problem, according to new survey data collected by an industry group. Partners for Automated Vehicle Education surveyed 1,200 Americans earlier this year and found that 48 percent of Americans say they would “never get in a taxi or ride-share vehicle that was being driven autonomously.” And slightly more Americans—20 percent versus 18 percent—think autonomous vehicles will never be safe compared to those who say they’d put their names down on a waiting list to get a ride in an autonomous vehicle.

PAVE says its data doesn’t reflect skepticism or fear based on the killing of a pedestrian by one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles, nor the series of drivers killed while using Tesla’s Autopilot. In fact, those events don’t even register with much of the population. Fifty-one percent said they knew nothing at all about the death of Elaine Herzberg in Arizona, and a further 37 percent only knew a little about the Uber death. Similar numbers said they knew nothing at all (49 percent) or very little (38 percent) about Tesla Autopilot deaths. But those who reported knowing a lot about the deaths were more likely to tell the survey they thought autonomous vehicles were safe now.

According to the survey data, getting a ride in a robotaxi might change some of those minds. Three in five said that they’d have more trust in autonomous vehicles if they had a better understanding of how those vehicles worked, and 58 percent said that firsthand experience—i.e. going for a ride in a self-driving car—would make them trust the technology more.

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