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SAE surveyed participants in its 4-city Demo Days automated-vehicle ride-along program for the public to determine their impressions before and after riding in an AV on public roads. (SAE)

SAE survey: Riding in automated vehicle reinforces positive perceptions

SAE surveyed participants in its pioneering automated-vehicle ride-along program. The experience reinforced acceptance of the automated-driving experience.

If there’s one takeaway from SAE International’s groundbreaking Demo Days program that took place in various U.S. cities over 18 months, it’s that everyday people who’ve had the opportunity to ride in an automated vehicle (AV) on real roads are the antithesis of Chaucer’s familiar phrase, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

During the program that generated 1,395 surveys, nearly all — 88% — of these early enthusiasts found no reason to change their positive perception of AVs after what was for 94% their first ride in a vehicle operating with high-level automated functionality. Participants at each of the Demo Days demonstrations were surveyed about their impressions before and after their approximately 10-minute AV ride.

The sentiment of those who rode in AVs during the SAE Demo Days largely contradicts the findings from recent surveys that indicate continuing latent distrust and even expanding lack of confidence in automated-driving technology.

Equally significant, after completing an AV demo ride, participants were asked to assess the self-driving vehicle experience compared to that of a human-driven vehicle. An overwhelming 76% of participants indicated the self-driving ride was similar to — or even superior to — past human-driven experiences. Perhaps related to this response, more than a third (37%) of respondents indicated they believe the most-significant benefit of AVs will be to reduce or eliminate deaths from vehicular crashes (see chart at right).

“Public acceptance is vital to the future of self-driving cars. Through SAE Demo Days, we are engaging the public directly and inviting them to take a ride,” said Mark Chung, SAE International chief marketing officer. “The SAE Demo Days experience spurred enthusiasm among nearly all of the riders and the experience overall is viewed by participants as comparable to or better than a human-driven experience.”

The list of partners supporting the SAE Demo Days initiative included Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, AutonomouStuff, PAVE, Perrone Robotics, Dataspeed, Velodyne, Voyage and AAA. Events to which the Demo Days program was connected included the Los Angeles-based LA CoMotion and SAE’s WCX conference in Detroit.

“It is SAE’s intent to grow this consumer experience, build trust and confidence in automated vehicles and document the voice of the public for government and industry insight,” said Marcie Hineman, the organization’s strategic marketing manager. For those seeking more information about SAE Demo Days and how to become involved, Hineman can be contacted at: marcie.hineman@sae.org.

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