2019 – Acceptance levels for self-driving vehicles: a report from VEDECOM

Following the “Acceptance levels for self-driving vehicles” seminar, held on 9th November 2018 at France’s Ministère de la Transition Écologique et Solidaire environmental ministry, VEDECOM was asked by the French government’s Direction Générale des Infrastructures, des Transports et de la Mer (DGITM) to produce a monograph on nationwide surveys aimed at identifying acceptance levels for self-driving vehicles. Below are the main findings of that document, which summarises and analyses the results of 9 opinion surveys and 4 scientific studies into the perception of self-driving vehicles in France.

Appreciating and understanding the current acceptance of self-driving vehicles in France

Produced by Marlène Bel, a social psychologist at VEDECOM, and Stéphanie Coeugnet-Chevrier, Director of the Institute’s “New mobility solutions and shared energies” department, the “Acceptance levels for self-driving vehicles” monograph is a report which examines nationwide surveys and studies on this issue. The purpose of this thorough investigation is to improve awareness and understanding of the issue of acceptance levels in France for self-driving vehicles in order to form a research foundation to serve the common interest. The VEDECOM institute submitted its report at the Acceptabilité du Véhicule Autonome seminar on 25th March 2019, planned and organised as part of the Stratégie Nationale du Développement des Véhicules Autonomes national strategy.

In total, some 8,500 French people were interviewed in the opinion surveys under examination, and 5,300 in the scientific studies. The objective: to assess French people’s perceptions of Level 5 self-driving vehicles in terms of security, reliability, pleasurable experience, comfort, cost, and potential to enable users to perform everyday tasks onboard. Questions regarding time and space savings, the use of personal data, the role of the supervisor and the integration of the vehicle with its surrounding environment are also considered. The studies cover not only personal and “robot taxi”-type vehicles, but also self-driving shuttles and buses.

Self-driving vehicles: a mixture of attraction and apprehension

The attractions of a self-driving vehicle – an object to inspire dreams like no other – include security, comfort and new modes of use. But its strongest resonance is in the vision of supreme freedom that it inspires. In addition to the independence and freedom of movement afforded by cars in general, it also offers the promise of extra free time and greater travelling comfort. And the promise is an emotive one: 37% of French people claim they would be keen to use a fully self-driving car because of the “extra free time” it would give them during journeys (IFOP, 2018). 74% of French people see connected cars as a way of saving time (Observatoire Cetelem, 2016); and 64% of respondents believe that the lack of impediments to their freedom of movement would encourage them to use a driverless vehicle (Débats citoyens, 2018). According to a 2018 study conducted by VEDECOM, 85% of French people would prefer to use the time inside their fully autonomous vehicles for engaging in activities other than driving or supervising their vehicle. However, security remains an issue of vital importance to users: 58% of those polled consider that the use of driverless vehicles would offer an improvement in everyday safety (Débats citoyens, 2018).

This hope of unrestricted freedom of movement is, however, tempered by a number of concerns which present obstacles to the acceptance of self-driving vehicles: according to 40% of respondents to the IFOP 2018 survey, “self-driving vehicles are rather frightening”. “The technical risk is currently too high,” according to 53% of those interviewed for the same study. In addition, questions regarding cybersecurity, responsibility and the use of personal data also present potential threats.

Trust: the key to acceptance

Although French people’s opinions on the subject are mixed, the studies do reveal a critical factor for gaining acceptance: trust. Not only trust in the technology itself, but also in its rules, usage patterns, systems and services. 53% of French people claim that “not trusting self-driving vehicles to make the right decision” is the main reason why they would be unwilling to use one (Débats Citoyens, 2018). However, studies show that trust in self-driving vehicles increases after a period of initial use. This finding is in line with the TRUST concept developed by Yann Leriche and Jean-Pierre Orfeuil in their recent work Piloter le véhicule autonome au service de la ville, co-ordinated by IVM-VEDECOM and conducted by VEDECOM. TRUST (Technologies – Rules – Uses – Systems and Services – Territories) is a trust-based methodology which offers the assurance of scientific rigour through its holistic, multi-criteria approach identifying the factors that underpin the emergence of autonomous mobility.

The monograph reveals two other key points:

  • Self-driving shuttles are generally perceived to be more acceptable than self-driving vehicles. There is a smaller paradigm shift at work in the former case than the latter: a passenger in a self-driving car is faced with a gradual transition from the role of driver of their vehicle to the role of passenger.
  • French people’s acceptance levels of self-driving vehicles are high if all the various levels of automation are factored in. When only Level 5 is considered (the assumption made in the opinion surveys), French people’s acceptance levels of self-driving vehicles are lower than average. In addition, disparities in the acceptance of self-driving vehicles emerge based on where respondents live: those who live in French cities and large towns are significantly more favourable to the concept than those who live in areas of lower density. 71% of French people living in the central Paris area would use them, compared to 40% of French people living in isolated communities outside the influence of major urban areas.


VEDECOM, a recognised expert in the acceptance of self-driving vehicles and new mobility solutions

This monograph reflects VEDECOM’s expertise in this field and acceptance levels for new mobility solutions, including self-driving vehicles in particular. This is a research area covered by the Institute’s “new mobility and shared energy solutions” division. With 50 staff working in 15 different disciplines, it addresses issues crucial to the introduction of new mobility solutions: human factors, legal frameworks, economic models for new mobility solutions, analyses of human mobility, etc. With their 45 accepted publications in a single year, these teams are active combatants on every front of the “mobility war”. 2019 was a particularly impressive year: the creation of Entropy, the first spinoff from VEDECOM, the publication of two major works in the mobility sector (Piloter le véhicule autonome, by Yann Leriche and Jean-Pierre Orfeuil, under the leadership of Mireille Apel-Muller; Véhicule autonome, qui est responsable? by Iolande Vingiano-Viricel); the awarding of the Grand Prix prize to the VEDETECT solution at the Salon des Maires fair; a strong involvement in collaborative projets: the European AutoMate project, the Paris-Saclay Autonomous Lab trial; the creation of the first certification course on legal issues pertaining to self-driving vehicles, etc.

The report on acceptance levels for self-driving vehicles which has resulted from this intense activity will be followed in 2020 by a similar work conducted by VEDECOM at international level.

For more information:

Document produced by the Stratégie nationale pour le Développement du Véhicule Autonome


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