Mobility concepts: self-driving cars with acceptance problems

Driving without a human driver will be possible in the not too distant future. But many of the intended users are still clinging to their steering wheel. According to a recent study, however, certain autonomous mobility concepts could be popular with many of those surveyed.

These days, the public focus is saving the climate by using electric cars. But aside from that, almost covertly, automobiles continue practicing for the “actual case” of driverless mobility on various test routes on German roads. Recent studies estimate the share of automated fleet vehicles at 12 to 20 percent by 2030, rising to 32 to 42 percent by 2035. However, in this future scenario, acceptance by the general public leaves much to be desired. This has been revealed in the past in a number of surveys.

At electronica 2016, the electronica Trend Index 2020 already showed that only 47 percent of drivers in Germany want autonomous driving compared to China, for example, where 89 percent of the people would have no problem with this. And it seems that not a lot has changed in the meantime. According to a Prognos study from December last year, 45 percent of drivers still believe that the new vehicle technology is unreliable or they are afraid of hackers.

But on the other hand, the latest Robocab acceptance study from Fraunhofer IAO and the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) shows a slightly different picture. At least, automated taxi and car sharing concepts are finding more favor.

Graphic of positioning of robocop mobility concepts
Positioning of robocop mobility concepts© Fraunhofer IAO

Popular mobility concepts

The people who took part in the survey see Robocabs as a convenient mobility solution to get from A to B efficiently and safely and also in an environmentally friendly manner. On the whole, the concept is most popular in China, followed by the U.S. and Germany. In Germany, Robocabs are still considered as a supplement to current means of transportation; in China, however, they are seen as a substitute. In the U.S. and in China, those surveyed would especially like to see traditional taxis replaced with Robocabs. In Germany, they could even replace buses and trolleys in some cases.However, the results do not allow any conclusions to be drawn regarding the ideal vehicle concept. Rather, the specific requirements for vehicle properties, body, and features change with the actual intended use. The respondents do not want autonomous vehicles for the prestige factor, but as a reliable, practical, and fast means of transportation mainly in urban areas. Outside cities—integrated into the network—they should offer an attractive option to fill the gaps in public transport systems.

Especially users who do not use public transport because of the lack of comfort and privacy may prefer to use these comfortable shuttles rather than their private vehicles in the future. Apart from this, Robocabs could also offer a self-sufficient, flexible, and convenient transportation solution for user groups like minors and older people. And, the high-quality, purpose-oriented vehicles could also be used in semi-public sharing models.

But then again, trust in autonomous driving doesn’t seem to be so high after all, as the interviewees had misgivings about allowing their own children to use a Robocab.

About the Robo Cab study

To analyze the user perspective, quantitative surveys were conducted with about 2,400 participants in Germany, China, and the U.S. in combination with qualitative interviews among selected test persons.

The acceptance study “Robocab” (german) can be downloaded free of charge here.