How much would you trust a self-driving car?

Will consumers ever trust self-driving cars?

Would you trust a self-driving car? If you’re like most other people, probably not. We trust computers with our safety and security every day, in an abstract way – our bank accounts, medical records and so on are all digitized.

But do you think you could trust a computer to drive you to work? In today’s world autonomous cars are no longer the realm of sci-fi: more of them are joining us on the roads every day. Many consumers are still dubious but with technology moving ever forward, the autonomous car is probably on its way to becoming a part of our everyday lives.

Researchers have been studying consumer faith in autonomous vehicles

The results paint a dismal picture. This study by Intelligent Car Leasing shows that only 17% of British people would feel safest travelling in a self-driving car. This concern is not unfounded, as the recent fatal incident involving an Uber car in Arizona illustrates.

The technology is designed to respond to the movements of cyclists, pedestrians, and other cars, but the problem is one of prediction. Accurately predicting human behaviour is something that even other humans find difficult to do sometimes – we’ve all done the I’ll-go-left-you-go-right dance – so how can we expect a computer to do it? The incident also shows that it isn’t just the people who use them who need to be able to trust autonomous cars, but every other road user and pedestrian as well.

Studies show that trust in self-driving vehicles is on the rise

According to this study, even though the level of trust is generally low, people might be coming around to the idea. Whether the Uber incident has affected this remains to be seen, but the findings show that the issue might have something to do with fear of the unknown. They found that as people began to experience the technology for themselves, they became more inclined to trust it.

Perhaps it is simply a matter of exposure and as more and more of us begin to use autonomous vehicles, and as the technology continually improves, fears about their safety will begin to seem unfounded. It’s difficult to guess at this stage, however, whether increased exposure will be enough to encourage widespread adoption of self-driving cars.

Could conversational cars be the answer?

Developers of autonomous cars are making a concerted effort to build trust in their products. They think the answer may lie in making cars more human-like – think KITT, from Knight Rider. Who wouldn’t trust KITT? But as they point out, if a car’s personality promises a level of competence that the technology cannot deliver, it will inevitably lead to increased frustration and distrust instead. The idea is to balance the two technologies so that expectations and results match up. The future is here, and it is autonomous.

Not convinced? Then have a look at our guide to choosing your next car.