The introduction of automated vehicles (AVs) on public roads will only be successful if requirements and expectations for this new technology are met and concerns about it are taken seriously. BRAVE has therefore set itself the task to shed light on the acceptance of AVs of all road users. Until now, the major part of research on opinions about and acceptance of AVs is focusing on the potential users – acceptance measured by the willingness to purchase and/or use such a vehicle. The view of the other road users who are directly affected and interact with an AV in road traffic (as the so called vulnerable road users (VRUs): pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycle drivers) has so far received little consideration.
In order to learn more about possible concerns and expectations of automated cars, a representative survey will be conducted in five European countries and in the USA and Australia in autumn/winter 2019. To prepare this survey, focus group discussions were held in four European countries (Germany, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) in spring 2018. In the following, the results of the focus group discussion and the aim of the population survey are presented briefly.
RESULTS OF THE FOCUS GROUP DISCUSSIONS
In thirteen focus groups, some of these differentiated by age and gender, 96 road users discussed expectations and concerns about the introduction of automated vehicles. It turned out that most of the respondents were in principle positive about the introduction of AVs. Nevertheless, concerns regarding road safety have also been expressed. The spectrum from positive expectations to (negative) concerns ranged from: A car in an automated driving mode will adhere more strongly to the traffic rules than human drivers and will be permanently vigilant as the technology cannot be inattentive or distracted, to: the technology may not work reliably and the driving programs may not be able to cope with every traffic situation, i.e. they may not accurately detect or predict the intentions of cyclists or pedestrians.
Due to the focus group discussions, it is not possible to make any statements about how widespread certain expectations or concerns are among the population. One can primarily learn from it the range of possible assessments.
POPULATION SURVEY OF ROAD USERS
With the data from the population survey the preexisting results from the explorative research can be further elaborated and statistically sound results will be gained. The survey aims to depict the acceptance as well as expectations and concerns about automated vehicles at SAE Level 3 by different road user groups (with focus on VRUs). The research hypothesis are:
- The acceptance of automated cars at SAE Level 3 differs between road user groups under control of age, gender and other factors,
- The acceptance of automated cars at SAE Level 3 of VRUs is lower than that of other road users (car drivers),
- The general acceptance of automated vehicles at SAE Level 3 varies according to country and region under control of age, gender and other factors,
- Road user groups have different considerations and expectations towards automated cars on SAE Level 3.
In all seven countries of the participating project partners of BRAVE (France, Germany, Spain, Slovenia, Sweden, plus the USA and Australia) a web survey will be employed. Online access panels will be used to recruit 1000+ respondents per country. Respondents must be at least 18 years old and a “road user” – so practically including every adult citizen. The survey will last 15 to 20 minutes and includes questions about the current mobility and participation in road traffic of the respondent, acceptance, trust, concerns, and expectations regarding automated vehicles at SAE Level 3, ethical implications, how the automated vehicles should interact with VRUs, and socio-economic status of the respondent.
Compared to most previous surveys on the acceptance of AVs, this survey has the advantage that it does not only focus on car drivers but addresses all road users. Moreover, most previous studies rarely exploit a systematic approach and hardly enable comparisons between different road user groups. The results of the BRAVE population survey will provide technicians and other stakeholders with information that can be considered in the further development of AVs.