TROY, MI—Consumer confidence in fully automated, self-driving vehicles has declined for a second consecutive year, according to the latest J.D. Power U.S. Mobility Confidence Index (MCI) Study, which was conducted in collaboration with the Advanced Vehicle Technology (AVT) Consortium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

People were asked a series of questions about their readiness for AV technology in several categories, including personal vehicles; commercial vehicles; public transit; riding if unable to drive due to age or injury; and sharing the road with other AVs.

Consumers show low readiness on all metrics, with the lowest level of comfort riding in a fully automated vehicle and using self-driving public transit. Despite lots of hype, public opinion and consumer comfort have been eroded by a lack of general knowledge about AV technology development, in addition to media coverage that highlights robotaxi incidents and testing failures. 

Confidence soars, however, for consumers who have ridden in an AV, with an MCI index score of 67, which is almost double the index score (37) of those who haven’t had the experience. Not surprisingly, consumer comfort is higher in the West, where a majority of testing is occurring in states such as Arizona and California. 

“Consumer trust is fragile, but it is the foundation upon which long-term AV acceptance is built,” says Lisa Boor, senior manager of auto benchmarking and mobility development at J.D. Power. “This first-time feedback from robotaxi riders shows significant growth in consumer comfort levels across any AV application.

“Industry stakeholders must seize the opportunity to build confidence and promote the technology across all transportation modalities through these first-hand experiences,” claims Boor. “But, for success, it cannot be overshadowed by endless deployment issues.” 

“Experience with automation appears to greatly improve confidence in the technology,” adds Bryan Reimer, Ph.D., founder of MIT’s AVT Consortium. “As trust is built over time but eroded quickly, stakeholders may need to find new ways to proactively educate potential users on the advantages and current limitations of vehicle automation systems.

“Automated driving technology is still very much in an evolving and testing stage, with improvements occurring quickly,” explains Reimer. “Consumers’ understanding of where we are on the path to long-term automated mobility needs to be calibrate, as today’s systems are not designed to enable more risky driving.”