Filed Under:Claims, Auto

Americans evenly divided over future of self-driving vehicles, AIG study reports

U.S. drivers are still divided over the benefits and drawbacks of self-driving vehicles. (Photo: Shutterstock)
U.S. drivers are still divided over the benefits and drawbacks of self-driving vehicles. (Photo: Shutterstock)

As we move closer and closer to a more autonomous future, Americans are narrowly split on their reception of driverless roadways.

In a new study conducted by AIG, 41% of Americans say they are uncomfortable with the idea of sharing the road with self-driving vehicles, while 42% say they are generally accepting of the idea.

Overall, respondents say safety is a major concern, while ease of transportation and lower insurance premiums are alluring pros.

Safety and security

Both supportive and opposing respondents are overwhelmingly apprehensive about the safety and security of these driverless vehicles, with 75% expressing concerns about hackers taking control of the vehicles’ autonomous features, including emergency brakes and lane departure avoidance, for example. And 67% cite concerns over a cyber breach, where personal data such as credit card information, times and destinations of travel, and Internet connections could become susceptible to hackers.

Related: Tesla automation faulted by NTSB in 2016 fatal Florida crash

As for overall driving safety, 39% believe autonomous vehicles will operate more safely than the average human driver, compared to 27% who feel they would not.

On the more positive side, respondents in the AIG survey were asked to identify up to three benefits of driverless vehicles. These were the most appealing:

  • Easier/less stressful transportation (44%)
  • Increased road safety (42%)
  • Lower insurance costs (39%) 

The blame game

The AIG study addressed accident responsibility as well and found that as a whole, respondents are shifting the blame away from individual drivers and toward auto manufacturers and software developers.

“As we move from autonomous features to fully driverless vehicles, risk does not disappear — it shifts from humans to machines,” says Lex Baugh, president, Liability and Financial Lines at AIG. “Understanding consumer perceptions of where risk with new technology ultimately resides today will help industry and insurers understand where liability may lie tomorrow.” 

Next, the AIG survey posed two scenarios. In the first, in which a fully driverless vehicle strikes a pedestrian, 50% of respondents deemed the auto manufacturer most responsible for the incident, 37% primarily blamed the software provider, and 23% say the vehicle’s occupant holds some form of liability. 

In the second scenario, the incident involved a vehicle with automated assisted driving technology. Here, respondents found the driver most liable (54%), but some still deemed the automaker (33%) and software provider (27%) liable.

Related: The shift to autonomous vehicles means opportunity for insurers 

As the perceived liability shifts from vehicle owners to vehicle manufacturers and software developers, 35% of survey respondents believe automated assistance systems or fully driverless vehicles should result in lower insurance premiums for the vehicle owner.

“The need for personal auto insurance will not go away as driverless cars emerge. Though without doubt, we will see shifting of liability in certain scenarios,” says Gaurav D. Garg, CEO Personal Insurance, AIG. “There are many ways for the driverless vehicle story to unfold over the next several years. It is critical for insurers to carefully watch the trend to help prepare clients — both consumers and businesses.”

Assessing the future of driverless roadways

A report by Ark Invest Research argues that a dominantly autonomous vehicle future is much closer than many believe. The report predicts that autonomous taxi services will be commercially available by 2019, and will be the dominant form of transportation by the late 2020s. Respondents in the AIG survey, however, believe it will be 22 years before fully driverless vehicles represent more than 20% of all vehicles on U.S. roadways and 34 years before these self-driving machines are the majority.

Survey respondents were asked to cite the most significant reasons for delay or prevention of widespread availability of self-driving vehicles. The top responses include:

  • Costs will be too high (55%);
  • Computer systems won’t be adequately secured (41%);
  • People enjoy driving too much (41%); and
  • The vehicles won’t be safe enough (35%).

Self-operating vehicles are no doubt in our future, but Americans’ receptive attitudes and perceptions are not quite as certain. As drivers stand equally divided on the matter, there is plenty for insurers, auto manufacturers and software developers to focus on as they consider their customers and the future of transportation as we know it.

Related: AIG CEO Brian Duperreault: the NU interview


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