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New AAA Report Says American Drivers Are Becoming Less Afraid of Self-Driving Cars

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People fear change. We can’t help it.It seems to be hard-wired into our human programming. Those fears are particularly acute when it comes to sudden changes to our daily existence. Throughout history, fears tend to be ignited whenever widespread technological shifts occur and alter how we interact with the world. Right now, one of the biggest sectors of daily life undergoing a massive change is transportation. We’re on the cusp of seeing fully self-driving vehicles occupying the road ways, and most of us will get quite a scare the first time we look over to see the car next to us on the highway is completely empty. Yet according to a new AAA study, more Americans are warming up to the idea of autonomous vehicles. Are we ready to share the roads with robots?

According to the new report published by AAA, 63% of Americans report being afraid to share the road with autonomous vehicles. While that figure still sounds high, it’s down from last year’s figure of 78%. Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering for AAA, says the decline is “noteworthy,” adding that since more drivers are getting used to autonomous systems in their existing vehicles like cruise control or parking or lane assist technology, fewer people are mistrustful or afraid of fully self-driving vehicles than a few years ago:

There are many more vehicles on the road with advanced driver systems like automatic emergency braking or adaptive cruise control. People (who have) experience with these technologies are 75% more likely to trust them. Education, exposure and experience will likely help ease consumer fears as we steer toward a more automated future.

Millennials, unsurprisingly, were far less afraid than other age groups, with just 49% reporting that they would be afraid to ride in an autonomous vehicle. Meanwhile, there is a clear gender difference in feelings towards self-driving cars: 73% of women reported being afraid of autonomous vehicles while just 52% of men reported the same. What might be behind this gender gap?

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