Survey: Americans Still Don't Trust Self-Driving Cars

New AAA research finds only 12 percent of drivers would feel safe riding in a car that drives itself.


NVER (March 5, 2020) – Americans just don't trust self-driving cars. That's the key takeaway from a new AAA survey on automated vehicles, which found that only one in ten drivers (12 percent) are comfortable riding in a self-driving car – and that fully 28 percent of Americans don't know how they feel about the technology. The research suggests that technology firms and automakers must together commit to robust public education about automation technology until Americans are able to experience it for themselves. 

Consumers told AAA that they would like to see more news stories or public information on key issues surrounding self-driving vehicles:

  • Six in ten Americans (57 percent) say they lack a clear understanding of who will be legally responsible in the event of a crash with a self-driving vehicle.
  • Half (51 percent) are curious about what laws will make sure self-driving cars are safe.
  • Half (49 percent) want to know how vulnerable automated vehicles will be to hackers.

"A consistent lack of clarity and transparency about self-driving technology has, fundamentally, scared Americans away from riding in an automated vehicle," said Skyler McKinley, AAA Colorado's director of public affairs. "Our research tells us that when people have the opportunity to truly learn how this technology works, they are significantly more likely to embrace it."

Seven in ten U.S. adults (72 percent) would feel safer riding in a self-driving car if they had the ability to take over control if something goes wrong. A similar proportion (69 percent) would feel safer if there was a dedicated human backup driver. Half (47 percent) would feel safer knowing the self-driving car has passed rigorous testing and inspection. Four in ten (42 percent) would feel safer after seeing or experiencing a demonstration prior to getting into a self-driving car.

"Let's be clear: We are decades out from widespread fleet penetration of automated vehicles," McKinley said. "Still, there are semi-automated vehicles on our roads today. Now is the time for the automotive industry to begin building the consumer buy-in that will make automation desirable – and possible." 


Due to a change in methodology in 2020, this year’s survey results are not directly comparable to results from prior years. This survey was conducted January 17 – 19, 2020, 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 1,301 interviews were completed among U.S. adults, 18 years of age or older. The margin of error for the study overall is 4% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups have larger error margins.

About AAA Colorado
More than 700,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state’s greatest advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 60 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services — as well as member-exclusive savings. A not-for-profit organization since its founding in 1923, AAA Colorado has been recognized as the number one Colorado company its size for its advocacy, community engagement, and corporate social responsibility efforts – and is a proud member of Points of Light’s “The Civic 50 Colorado,” recognizing the 50 most community-minded companies in the state. For more information, visit