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Fear of Self-Driving Cars on the Rise

Drivers Increasingly Anxious as Autonomous Technology Advances

Concerns about self-driving cars are significantly higher than last year, according to an annual automated vehicle survey just released by AAA.

The survey reveals 68 percent of drivers are afraid of riding in a self-driving vehicle. That's up from 55 percent in 2022, and the largest annual increase since 2020.

"We did not expect such a dramatic shift in consumer concerns from previous years," said Gene LaDoucer, regional director of public affairs for AAA-The Auto Club Group. "Though it isn't entirely surprising, given the number of high-profile crashes that have recently occurred from over-reliance on current vehicle technologies."

Even with advancements made in recent years, these findings suggest the need to dispel confusion around automated vehicles. AAA's survey found that nearly one in ten drivers believe they can buy a vehicle that drives itself while they sleep. That is not true.

While this perception could stem from social media videos of drivers apparently misusing driver assistance technology, our survey shows that the names manufacturers have given their vehicle systems are confusing consumers. AAA found that 22 percent of Americans expect driver support systems, with names like Autopilot, ProPILOT, or Pilot Assist, to have the ability to drive the car by itself without any supervision, indicating a gap in consumer understanding.

"Most new vehicles are equipped with some level of advanced driver assistance technology, which can enhance the safety of motorists if used properly," LaDoucer continued. "However, it's important to clarify that there are currently no vehicles available for purchase that allow someone to fully disengage from the task of driving."

Consumers are not entirely opposed to advanced vehicle technology. In fact, six in ten U.S. drivers would "definitely" or "probably" want these systems in their next car purchase.

  • Examples of ADAS include blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking. Check out AAA's "Clearing the Confusion", which provides naming and descriptions of ADAS in a consistent, easy-to-understand manner.
  • Active driving assistance (ADA) combines the tasks of braking, accelerating, and steering through a combined use of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance. ADA is classified as Level 2 automation - the highest level of vehicle automation available for purchase by the public. This technology is not meant to replace the driver. Recent AAA research has found inconsistencies with ADA performance, reinforcing the need for a driver to remain fully engaged.
  • Currently unavailable for purchase by consumers are vehicles capable of operating without human involvement. These vehicles are classified as Level 5 automation as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

"AAA seeks to partner with automakers to create greater consistency across the industry," said Greg Brannon, director of automotive research for AAA. "Together, we can help consumers understand the type of technology their vehicle has along with how, when and where to use these systems, which will ultimately build trust in the vehicles of the future."


AAA has conducted its annual Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Survey since 2016; data not comparable to years prior to 2021 due to change in methodology. The survey was conducted January 13-17, 2023, using a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population overall. The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. Most surveys were completed online; consumers without Internet access were surveyed over the phone.

A total of 1,140 interviews were completed among U.S. adults, 18 years of age or older, of which 949 qualified for the study. The margin of error for the study overall is 4.3% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups have larger error margins.

About AAA - The Auto Club Group

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 13 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 62 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA's mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.