Chinese motorists nearly twice as trusting of autonomous car technology as the United States and Germany; all expect improvement in road safety, yet want to be able to intervene at any time
TÜV Rheinland, a leading international testing service provider for quality and safety, today announced results from a global survey designed to assess consumer perception of safety of autonomous vehicles in different regions. The survey, conducted among more than 1,000 licensed drivers aged 18 years and above each in China, Germany, and the United States, reveals that trust in technology of completely autonomous cars is nearly twice as high in China as the other two countries. More than 63 percent of respondents in China believe driverless cars will increase road safety, while the figure is 34 percent in the United States and Germany.
Respondents were equal in the degree of importance placed on data protection and desire for assurances that autonomous vehicles will be protected against cyberattacks. Drivers the world over also wish to be able to decide for themselves when to let a car drive autonomously, and when to control it themselves.
Respondents convinced that automated driving increases overall road safety
While respondents generally agree that automation of driving will improve road safety, again we see a higher proportion of respondents believe this in China than in Germany and the USA. Interestingly, however, people’s doubts tend to increase and trust in the technology decreases as vehicles’ level of automation goes up. Only 11 percent of the respondents in Germany and 15 percent in the USA state they fear ‘a deterioration of road safety’ due to partial automation, while nearly half of those same respondents believe that road safety will deteriorate with the advent of completely driverless cars. In China, only 24 percent expect road safety to decrease in the case of driverless cars.
“When we see large swaths of motorists in China, Germany, and the USA share a belief that road safety will decrease as automation increases, it tells us we must give people much more information and communicate the benefits of autonomous technology more clearly,” said Dr. Matthias Schubert, executive vice president of mobility at TÜV Rheinland.
The results of the international study echo the same trends shown in a similar TÜV Rheinland survey from Spring, 2017 on the acceptance of autonomous driving in Germany. This study revealed that 75 percent of respondents generally view autonomous vehicle technology positively but, when looked at in detail, there are still many reservations about the technical implementation.
In the current study, 78 percent of all global respondents agree that it must be possible for a person to take full control of the vehicle at any time in the event of an emergency – this opinion is stronger in Germany and the USA than in China.
Cyberprotection leading indicator of trust in technology
Fear of cybercrime around autonomous vehicles is widespread among global motorists – especially in Germany. A full 76 percent of respondents in Germany believe that personal data can fall into unauthorized hands when using autonomous vehicles. The United States and China stand at 67 percent and 63 percent, respectively. In all three countries, respondents fear to an equal extent that autonomous cars could lead to increased vehicle crime due to people accessing the vehicles via technical means and data theft. This opinion was somewhat more prevalent in the USA, with 52 percent of respondents in agreement.
A majority of respondents think the systems of future cars should be updated regularly and automatically to ensure road safety and protection against cyberattacks. In China, 80 percent of respondents support “over-the-air updates;” the figure is 68 percent in the United States, and 64 percent in Germany.
Notably, in all three countries cyberprotection is so important that the majority of respondents (Germany 66 percent, USA 61 percent, China 60 percent) would change to a different make of car if hacker attacks were to come to light. On this topic, consumers in China are more likely to trust the competence of the manufacturers to develop autonomous vehicles that are protected against unauthorized access (71 percent). In Germany, the sentiment tends to be positive (55 percent), an opinion that has risen significantly compared to the survey from Spring, 2017. At that time, only 47 percent of German respondents held this faith. Americans show the least confidence in automobile manufacturers to build autonomous vehicles that are protected against cybercrime, at just 41 percent.
Data collection just as necessary as data protection
Most motorists today are aware that data in modern vehicles is recorded and transmitted to automobile manufacturers. This includes data on the state of the vehicle (e.g., mileage, error messages) as well as vehicle movement data (e.g., speed, position) or person-specific data, such as style of driving or seat adjustment settings. Just how well-informed do people believe they are on this matter? Very large differences show up here across the three countries: 55 percent of respondents in the United States say that they are rather poorly informed about which data is used for which purpose, who has access to the data, and how well-protected the data is. This is also the case for 52 percent of respondents in Germany. In China, however, only 15 percent of respondents believe they are poorly informed.
For all respondents, safety is a primary motivation for sharing data. Between 30 percent and 50 percent of motorists in all three countries state a specific desire to make their data available for breakdown assistance services, car insurance companies, testing organizations, automobile manufacturers, and state institutions. However, motorists are less willing to transmit their data to service and mobility providers, particular data app providers, automotive suppliers, automobile dealers, and infrastructure operators such as gas stations.
Finally, 71 percent of the Chinese respondents demonstrate a greater inclination (Germany 45 percent, USA 42 percent) to pass on their data for updating and using new services (e.g., for telematics services such as parking space finders).
Politicians and industry executives need to do their homework
The survey brings to light motorist perceptions that may impair the acceptance of autonomous vehicles and pose significant barriers to widespread adoption. To eliminate these kinds of obstacles, politicians and industry executives, in particular, need to do their homework. In Germany, more than half (53 percent) of survey participants believe it is most important for the driver to always be able to take full control of the vehicle. Furthermore, 49 percent feel the need for legal situations to be clarified further (e.g., questions of liability), and 37 percent want data protection to be ensured through a corresponding framework. For respondents in the United States, having a permanent option for the driver to take full control of the vehicle is also the top priority (47 percent). Proof of functional safety through tests comes a close second (45 percent). Following in third place is the protection of the car against unauthorized access (43 percent). For Chinese respondents, backup of personal data is the most important (43 percent), even more so than ensuring data protection (40 percent) and protection of the vehicle against unauthorized access (36 percent).
The survey on the safety of autonomous vehicles by TÜV Rheinland in the context of autonomous driving was conducted in September 2017 via an online panel. For the study, TÜV Rheinland polled a representative sample of around 1,000 each from China, Germany, and the Unites States aged 18 years and over and in possession of a driver’s license. It is the second study of this kind by TÜV Rheinland; in Spring 2017, the company carried out a study on the acceptance of autonomous vehicles in Germany.