A matter of trust

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Science  15 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6369, pp. 1375-1377
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6369.1375

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Automobile companies and technology firms are racing to deploy autonomous vehicles (AVs). But they could face one key obstacle: consumer distrust of the technology. Unnerved by the idea of not being in control—and by news of semi-AVs that have crashed, in one case killing the owner—many consumers are apprehensive. In a recent survey by AAA, for example, 78% of respondents said they were afraid to ride in an AV. Such numbers are a warning sign to firms hoping to sell millions of AVs, says Jack Weast, chief systems architect of Intel's autonomous driving group in Phoenix. "We could have the safest car in the world," he says, "but if consumers don't want to put their kids into it, then there's no market." But consumer distrust has become a catalyst, prompting researchers in industry and academia to a launch a wide range of studies aimed at understanding how people perceive AVs—and what might persuade skeptics to change their views.