During the Q3 2023 earnings call, Elon Musk reiterated the idea that Tesla’s future lies in the company solving autonomy. For this to happen, Tesla would have to prove that its autonomous driving software is safer and more capable than a human driver. The company must also be able to produce its dedicated driverless robotaxis at scale.
As per a recent study from J.D. Power, however, it would seem that companies like Tesla that are betting on robotaxis becoming mainstream have their work cut out for them. This was because consumers, at least for now, are not yet ready to embrace autonomous vehicles.
The inaugural J.D. Power U.S. Robotaxi Experience Study provided the first consumer feedback from robotaxi riders and those who have interacted with robotaxis in their communities. As per J.D. Power in a press release, only 27% of non-robotaxi riders are comfortable sharing the road with autonomous vehicles. Only 20% of all consumers are comfortable with autonomous driving systems being tested on public streets near them as well.
Considering how new self-driving technology is, these findings are no surprise. But while consumers still have notable reservations about robotaxis, those who have actually tried the self-driving vehicles appeared to have positive experiences. Among those who actually tried robotaxis, 47% stated that they gained trust during a ride, and 51% maintained their already high level of trust in the technology during a ride. Only 2% of riders lost trust in a robotaxi during a ride experience.
To date, companies such as Cruise and Waymo have been granted permission to operate driverless robotaxis on public roads. Tesla, whose Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta is a hands-on system, does not operate a dedicated robotaxi service as of yet. That being said, Tesla executives noted during the Q3 2023 earnings call that the company’s approach to self-driving is more holistic, and thus would be much more useful once it is achieved.
Kathleen Rizk, senior director of user experience benchmarking and technology at J.D. Power, shared some comments about the firm’s robotaxi study.
“Automated vehicle technology is built on the promise of alleviating distracted driving, impaired driving, and collisions attributed to human error. However, the benefits result from consumer acceptance, which is why it’s imperative to ensure these first deployments are flawless—not only for the riders but also especially for those who are not early adopters, including non-riders who are experiencing AVs in their community and those learning from a distance through social media and other news outlets,” Rizk said.
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