Researchers say drivers can build trust in autonomous cars, despite recent accidents

The AAA report said around 73 percent of drivers are scared to drive in an autonomous, or self-driving cars.

A new AAA report this month from a survey in April said fewer consumers trust autonomous vehicles.

This comes two months after pedestrians were killed by autonomous vehicles in cities in Arizona and California.

The report said around 73 percent of drivers are scared to drive in an autonomous, or self-driving cars.

That is 10 percent higher than in 2017.

"Automated vehicles have a lot of opportunity in who they can assist in the future," said Ashley McDonald. McDonald is the Project Manger of the Automated Vehicle Research Group at the National Advance Driving Simulator in Coralville.

Yet, this survey revealed not all American drivers are excited to introduce autonomous cars into their future.

"Some of the recent high profile crashes that have occurred with autonomous technology have put a dent in that support," said Nick Jarmusz, the Director of Public Affairs for AAA.

Jarmusz said these crashes caused more of a decline in trust among millennials.

"Partly that's just because they had the highest level of support to begin with," he said. "Generation X and baby boomers had a much lower level of trust in these technologies to start with."

McDonald said drivers should still consider that autonomous cars could be safer than human control of the wheel.

"94 percent of car crashes are caused by human error, and so this technology can help us bring that number down," she said.

McDonald said drivers who are scared of autonomous cars often do not know how they work or have never been in one.

"We think it's important to get consumers in front of this technology an get them to understand how it works and what the true safety benefits of it is," said McDonald.

The cars McDonald's teams work with are semi-autonomous, and they cannot be driven without someone in the driver seat for now. They use these cars to to see how drivers react and adapt to the use of current day autonomous technology already on the consumer market. They are essentially the building blocks for fully autonomous cars.

"Like adaptive cruise control, which will slow down and speed up as the driver comes on to another car, [and] automatic emergency braking, [which keeps] a safe distance," said McDonald.

She and AAA hope if more drivers choose to understand these features now, they will be less likely to distance themselves from autonomous cars in the future.

"We're still quiet a ways off," said Jarmusz.

Jarmusz said it is important for drivers to know what kind of technology they have in their car, like cruise control versus adaptive cruise control, because it can make a difference in their driving and safety.

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