Consumer demand for partial driving automation and hands-free driving capability

Mueller, Alexandra S. / Cicchino, Jessica B. / Calvanelli, Jr., Joseph V.
Journal of Safety Research
February 2023

Introduction: It is often assumed that consumers want partial driving automation in their vehicles, yet there has been little research on the topic. Also unclear is what the public’s appetite is for hands-free driving capability, automated (auto)-lane-change functionality, and driver monitoring that helps reinforce proper use of these features.
Method: Through an internet-based survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,010 U.S. adult drivers, this study explored consumer demand for different aspects of partial driving automation.
Results: Eighty percent of drivers want to use lane centering, but more prefer versions with a hands-on-wheel requirement (36%) than hands-free (27%). More than half of drivers are comfortable with different driver monitoring strategies, but comfort level is related to perceptions of feeling safer with it given its role in helping drivers use the technology properly. People who prefer hands-free lane centering are the most accepting of other vehicle technologies, including driver monitoring, but some also indicate an intent to misuse these features. The public is somewhat more reluctant to accept auto lane change, with 73% saying they would use it, and more often prefer it to be driver-initiated (45%) than vehicle-initiated (14%). More than three quarters of drivers want auto lane change to have a hands-on-wheel requirement.
Conclusion: Consumers are interested in partial driving automation, but there is resistance to more sophisticated functionality, especially vehicle-initiated auto lane change, in a vehicle that cannot technically drive itself. Practical applications: This study confirms the public’s appetite for partial driving automation and possible intention for misuse. It is imperative that the technology be designed in ways that deter such misuse. The data suggest that consumer information, including marketing, has a role to play to communicate the purpose and safety value of driver monitoring and other user-centric design safeguards to promote their implementation, acceptance, and safe adoption.

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