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Women are much more skeptical about the safety of self-driving cars

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A new report by Pew Research Center Wednesday finds that women are much more skeptical than men that self-driving cars will make our roads and highways safer. The findings suggest a public relations issue that could further slow the rise of automated vehicles, despite studies showing that such vehicles would improve safety.

The research results, released Wednesday, represent a new analysis of a larger survey from November 2021 focused on AI and human enhancement issues. Among the key findings of the survey:

  • Only about 3 in 10 women say they believe that self-driving cars will reduce the number of deaths or injuries in crashes. Meanwhile, almost half of men (49%) say automated driving will reduce the number of accidents.
  • Only 17% of women say driverless cars are a good idea for society, while 37% of men say the same.
  • Only 27% of women surveyed say they would certainly or probably personally drive a driverless passenger car if given the chance, compared to almost half of men (46%).
  • A majority of women (54%) say they would be uncomfortable sharing the road with a self-driving passenger car if its use becomes widespread. Only 35% of men say the same thing.
  • While self-driving long-haul trucks may be one of the first autonomous vehicles appear on US roads, both women and men are opposing this use of the technology in large numbers. Two-thirds of women (66%) are against self-driving trucks, compared to 53% of men.
  • Just over half of women, 51%, say they are against the use of self-driving buses on public transport. Just over a third of men, or 35%, say the same.
  • However, women are much more accepting of self-driving vehicles used as taxis, shared cars and vans. Only 39% of the women surveyed were against these applications, while 29% of the men were against it.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 42,915 people in the US were killed in motor vehicle traffic accidents in 2021. Meanwhile, numerous studies have shown that autonomous vehicles, which do not drive drunk or distracted, have the potential to reduce the number of annual road deaths in the US. 2021 report that self-driving cars “can greatly assist drivers and reduce human error and the resulting crashes, injuries and economic toll.”

Click to to expand [Image: Pew Research Center]

However, Research has also shown that automated driving cannot eliminate all car accidents. A recent research predicts that automated driving features would cause people to spend even more time in their cars, increasing the risk of an accident. Of course, automated vehicles aren’t filling the roads yet, so studies predicting the safety benefits of self-driving vehicles, while very likely correct, have not been proven.

The doubts about the technology revealed in Pew’s research, especially among women, can only be dispelled if people gain more real-life experience of driving safely in or near autonomous vehicles.

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