The self-driving car: gauging consumer confidence around the world

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
February 09, 2021, 8:19 PM UTC

With each passing year, driver-assisting technology in vehicles is becoming more common placefrom  lane-departure monitors, through radar cruise control to automatic breaking. 

These safety features are important steps on the road to fully autonomous vehicles. But are consumers ready for the day when drivers can take their hands off the wheel entirely? 

International polling by YouGov in 17 key markets indicates about two in five (43%) consumers are nervous about self-driving vehicles on the roads. 

To arrive at this sentiment, YouGov asked respondents whether they agree or disagree with the statement “The idea of self-driving vehicles makes me nervous. 

Many simply aren’t sure what to think about the idea of driverless vehicles. Overall, 27% neither agree nor disagree with the statement and 7% indicated they don’t know. Roughly a quarter (24%) disagree with the statement. 

Regardless, they’re coming. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, never the one to shy away from big claims, said the company’s vehicles will be capable of Level 5 autonomy by the end of 2021, meaning full automation. In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has penned its final set of rules affecting self-driving cars after nearly a decade of deliberation. Firmed-up regulations now include laws for cars without steering wheels, pedals or seats. 

Nevertheless, YouGov data shows more than half (58%) of consumers in the US are nervous about the prospect of driverless vehicles. The US is high on our list, but consumers in the United Kingdom are even more anxious about these types of vehicles (62%). 

A bare majority of consumers in Australia and France are also nervous, YouGov data shows 

It will take concerted and ongoing efforts from brands to help quell these feelings. Alphabet-owned Waymo, the vanguard of fully autonomous driving in the United States, is aware of concerns and has launched the public education initiative Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving. 

Looking along demographics, women are more likely than men to be nervous about autonomous vehicles (47% vs. 38%). Adults over 55 years old around the world are much are likely as those between 18-24 to be concerned (49% vs. 37%). 

So, which markets appear less nervous?  

About a third of consumers in Mexico (34%) say self-driving cars don’t make them nervous, the highest rate of any market polled, followed by Denmark (30%) then India (29%), where car ownership has exploded in recent years. 

Methodology: Research was conducted in January 2021 across multiple markets. Sample sizes were between 505 and 2,029.

Image: Getty