Legislature OKs testing of self-driving cars in Utah; AAA says most people are wary of the technology

Photo by Toby Parsons from Pixabay, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A majority of people are wary of autonomous vehicles, AAA found in recent survey, which nonetheless yielded results favoring the emerging technology.

AAA’s Annual Automated Vehicle Survey found 71 percent of people are afraid to ride in fully self-driving vehicles.

The idea of using autonomous vehicles for everyday transportation isn’t popular among Americans at the moment due to self-driving mishaps reported over the past year.

One such incident occurred in northern Utah in May when a Tesla Model S struck the back of a fire department vehicle going 60 mph while in the car’s semi-autonomous “Autopilot” mode.

Despite such incidents, the study showed that more people are receptive to the use of self-driving vehicles in limited applications.

Slightly more than half (53 percent) are comfortable with low-speed, short distance use of autonomous vehicles like shuttles used at airports and theme parks, while 44 percent are in favor of the use of self-driving vehicles for food and package delivery. Amazon and FedEx have announced they are field-testing autonomous delivery services in select areas.

Read more: Could driverless grocery delivery be in Southern Utah’s future? Kroger launches pilot program in Phoenix suburb

Last month, the Utah Legislature passed House Bill 101, Automous Car Regulations, which allows for the testing of self-driving cars in the state.

“It’s the beginning of the autonomous vehicle era,” Sen. David Buxton, R-Roy, the bill’s Senate sponsor, said prior to the bill passing unanimously.

The bill allows for the testing of autonomous vehicles in “real-world situations” while also adding points of regulation for autonomous vehicle use.

Under the legislation, self-driving vehicles must be insured, have a driver present and have the ability to switch to manual driving when autonomous driving fails and also notify the driver early enough to take over driving.

Buxton said he believes autonomous cars will help save lives as the majority of vehicle crashes are caused by a driver’s lack of attention.

“This will save many, many lives,” he said.

Over half of Americans (55 percent) believe the majority of cars will have self-driving capabilities by 2029.

Those who doubt that fully self-driving vehicles will arrive that soon cite lack of trust, not wanting to give up driving, doubts about the readiness of technology and lack of infrastructure.

AAA Utah believes the more people understand about the benefits and limitations of the technology, the more prepared and receptive the public will be when it comes to fully automated vehicles.

Recently, AAA Utah joined Waymo’s Let’s Talk Self Driving campaign to increase education and understanding of the safety and mobility benefits of fully autonomous vehicles with the public.

“Despite fears running high, this study shows Americans are willing to take baby steps toward incorporating this type of technology in their lives,” said Sergio Avila, spokesman for AAA Utah.

“Hands-on experience in more controlled, low risk environments coupled with stronger education – like Waymo’s Let’s Talk Self-Driving campaign – will play a key role in easing the fears about self-driving cars,” Avila said.

Many vehicles on the road today are already equipped with advanced driver assistance systems that are considered building blocks for fully self-driving vehicles.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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