User Acceptance towards AVs: a state of the art study

The first six months of the project have been dedicated to a state of the art study. This work aims at providing an overview on definitions and theoretical approaches to acceptance as well as on ethical, social, legal, economic and road safety implications of automated cars.

The literature review especially shows that the general level of trust in automated or autonomous driving is limited. Within the reviewed studies the majority of participants were concerned that self-driving vehicles cannot drive as well as human drivers. Worries regarding system failure can also be related to trust problems. The comfort that passengers of highly / fully automated vehicles expect or what secondary task they engage in might depend on their tendency to trust machines. Research findings clearly illustrate that males and females have distinct perceptions, expectations and concerns towards automated / autonomous vehicles. The finding of the described surveys suggest that men generally have more positive expectations regarding automated features / driver assistance systems in cars and also seem to be slightly more willing to buy such systems than females and that the attitude of females towards automated / autonomous vehicles is rather reserved. Other implications important for the focus of BRAVE can be related to worries about data privacy and liability. As it is not clear yet who will be liable in what situation and who will have the right to access the data gathered with the introduction of automated driving on European roads, the uncertainty was found to be a concern to European citizens.

Organized stakeholders are, either directly or indirectly, likely to be affected by AVs. It is important to include their perspective so that automated vehicle technology is widely adopted in a safe and effective manner. There are different expectations on automated transport logistics between different stakeholders and different views regarding the timing of widespread implementation and adoption of automated vehicles. A common issue that is addressed concerns legal aspects.

The review of studies concerning human-machine-interaction (HMI), transfer of control (TOC), mental workload (MWL), situational Awareness (SA) and trust indicates that cars on SAE level 2 and level 3 of automation are shadowed by several issues that are problematic from a road safety perspective. Studies show that humans are not well suited for supervision tasks and therefore easily lose track of the situation at hand and intervene less well compared to being in control at all times. The road safety literature suggests a problematic pattern of issues. These concerns or issues will need to be considered if potential increases in road safety from AV are to be realized. There is a potential for improved road safety, as long as driver behavioral adaptation – such as drivers engaging in non-related driving tasks – can be mitigated.

There has been a discussion about the ethical implications of autonomous driving for some years now, mainly about ethical issues in unavoidable accident situations where at least one road user gets harmed. The literature review only allows limited conclusions, so it cannot be decided what would be the most appropriate ethical approaches for the programming of autonomous cars – there is no consensus on this in the literature – and whether there should be the possibility of individual Personal Ethics Settings (PES) for the users of automated cars. The few empirical studies on how the public thinks about the ethics settings of autonomous cars also show no clear result. There seems to be an acceptance that a car should be programmed in such a way that, in the event of a crash, as little human harm as possible occurs, but it is not clear whether many people would be willing to purchase or use a car, which sacrifices the car occupant to save someone else’s life. In the future autonomous cars must make decisions that touch on ethical issues and these ethical issues have not yet been sufficiently and transparently discussed in the public. Such a discussion would be  important because rules have to be drawn up here, which have to balance between the two socially important ethical principles of self-determination and safety. And the way automated / autonomous vehicles are ethically programmed will also determine their societal acceptance.

The brief overview of the legal implications of autonomous cars shows that in many countries legislation is now reacting to the new technology. Nevertheless, many aspects and topics are not yet regulated by law; at least this could be the impression for the legal layman. The issues of liability – who is liable in which case for a crash – and privacy – who has access to the data collected by the automated car – should be regulated comprehensibly and transparent for the ordinary consumer in order to make the market launch of automated cars a success.

Regarding the social and economic impacts, many studies predict that on the one hand the deployment of automated cars will have the potential to reduce crashes, increase fuel efficiency, reduce parking demand, improve road capacity, ease congestion, and increase mobility for non-drivers. On the other hand, there could be negative externalities such as increased congestion and environmental degradation and negative effects on employment. The great uncertainty regarding how people will change their travel behavior makes it hard to draw any clear conclusions regarding the social and economic impacts of automated vehicles. Thus, it is important to further investigate the possible behavioral changes that might come from the implementation of autonomous vehicles, since they will play an important role for the societal acceptance of automated vehicles.

In order to investigate the acceptance of the European population regarding automated vehicles referring to level 3 of vehicle automation, a stakeholder survey and a representative public opinion survey will be performed within BRAVE. To reach a high level of acceptance in the public, it can be assumed that further research is required in order to learn more about the expectations and concerns of European citizens. Within the survey (to be held during the incoming months), the gender perspective should be included and questions about the ethical preferences of the population should also be asked.

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