Autonomous Study Finds Different Types of Self-Driving Knowledge

From the suspicious driver to the tech-savvy passenger: in the representative online study “The Pulse of Autonomous Driving”, Audi has produced a user typology of autonomous driving.

Autonomous driving is a top theme across borders: 90 percent of respondents have heard about the technology. The study shows great interest in and high curiosity about autonomous driving. 22 percent say that they know a lot about autonomous driving. But only 8 percent feel able to explain the subject. Practice is better than theory. More than half of respondents would like to test autonomous driving in accordance with this motto. High willingness is evident among frequent drivers and regular users of driver-assistance systems.

The emotional landscape on autonomous driving produces a mixed picture. On the one hand, internationally there is strong interest in (82 percent) and curiosity about (62 percent) autonomous driving. In the new technology, respondents see potential for the individual and society – from easier access to mobility (76 percent) and greater convenience (72 percent) to more safety (59 percent). More than half of respondents would like to test autonomous driving. On the other hand, clear concerns also exist, above all the fear of loss of control (70 percent) and unavoidable residual risks (66 percent). 41 percent of respondents are suspicious of the technology, and about one third (38 percent) are anxious. The greatest willingness to hand over control relates to autonomous parking and traffic jams on highways. The level of knowledge about autonomous driving appears to be low: only eight percent state that they can explain the subject.

The human readiness index (HRI) provides insights into the way that attitudes to autonomous driving relate to sociodemographics. The results show that the younger the respondents are and the higher their level of education and income, the more positive is their attitude to autonomous driving. Differences are also apparent between the countries that were investigated. The Chinese (HRI +5.1) are euphoric, and South Koreans (HRI +1.2) too are above-average in their positive view of the technology. In Europe the Spanish and Italians lead the field (both HRI +0.7). Germans and French are relatively reserved (both HRI -0.7), as are the Americans, Japanese and British (all HRI -0.9). The HRI combines knowledge of, interest in, emotions about and readiness to use self-driving cars to produce a numerical indicator between -10 and +10.
Attitudes to autonomous driving are related to lifestyle

By examining attitudes to autonomous driving in the context of people’s lives, the user typology shows that significant differences exist. This analysis results in five user types. The “suspicious driver” likes to stick with what already exists and would use autonomous driving only if it had become fully established. “Safety-oriented reluctants”, too, have a largely reserved attitude to autonomous driving. They believe that autonomous cars should first be tested for years before being allowed on the road. The “open-minded co-pilot” sees the benefits of the technology and desires measures from the fields of business, science and politics to put the cars on the road safely. “Status-oriented trendsetters” are enthusiastic about self-driving cars because they can demonstrate their progressive lifestyle in this way. The “tech-savvy passenger” trusts the technology and wants it to be introduced across the board.

“Automated and autonomous driving has the potential to improve our mobility substantially,” says Thomas Müller, head of Automated Driving at Audi: “On the way there, alongside technical development, it is of decisive importance to convince people. The study provides us with differentiated insights about where people stand in relation to autonomous driving and how we can establish suitable expectations about the new technology in society.”

The study identifies key areas for action that help to determine the social acceptance of autonomous driving:

  • The results make it clear that there is room for more knowledge about autonomous driving. There is potential to enhance know-how about technical aspects, the social benefits of the technology and its limits. The aim is to establish appropriate expectations of the opportunities and limitations of the technology in society. 
  • The user typology reveals differences in attitudes to autonomous driving depending on the context of people’s lives. Varying needs should be met with specific offers of autonomous driving. These offers can range from specific information to experience of technology.
  • Certified safety, a legal framework, reliable technologies: the study points to measures that would enhance confidence in autonomous driving. Here it is evident that interdisciplinary cooperation between business, science, politics and other societal stakeholders is necessary in responding to people’s hopes and demands.

In the context of the initiative “&Audi”, the mobility company Audi in cooperation with the market research institute Ipsos interviewed 21,000 people in nine countries on three continents. It shows that young, high-earning and well-educated “status-oriented trendsetters” and “tech-savvy passengers” most look forward to autonomous driving. Amongst “suspicious drivers”, who tend to be older with a lower level of income and education, skepticism is dominant. The “safety-oriented reluctant” would use autonomous driving only when others have gained experience with the technology. The largest user group are the “open-minded co-pilots”, who are fundamentally open to autonomous driving as long as they can take control at any time.