STUDY: Consumers Trust Tesla for Self-Driving Car

Despite several fatal crashes involving Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous system, consumers trust the electric car maker more than any other mainstream automaker or tech company when it comes to self-driving vehicles.

According to a recent survey by Autolist, 32 percent of respondents said they trusted Tesla the most to bring a self-driving car to market, among all tech companies and legacy automakers. Twenty-seven percent said they didn’t trust any company at all. Of the legacy automakers, Toyota was the most-trusted, with 15 percent of consumers citing it as their top choice.

Autolist polled 1,326 consumers in March and April, in the weeks after both Tesla and Uber vehicles were involved in fatal crashes in which at least some level of autonomous systems were involved.

On March 18, one of Uber’s pilot autonomous test vehicles hit and killed Elaine Herzberg while she was crossing the road at night with her bicycle in Arizona. In Tesla’s case, Walter Huang was killed on March 23 in Northern California when his Model X crossover slammed into a highway barrier; the vehicle’s Autopilot system was engaged at the time of the crash.

Tesla and its supporters have long touted Autopilot as one of the most capable semi-autonomous systems on the market today. They cite its ability to keep the car in its lane, steer around curves, brake and accelerate and even change lanes without the driver touching the steering wheel.

Critics counter that it gives users a false sense of its abilities and its limits, increasing the likelihood of misuse or a crash.

With these Uber and Tesla incidents recently in the news, it isn’t surprising that 27 percent of consumers said that they didn’t trust any company to bring to market a self-driving car – something which no company has done to date and which no one is expected to do for several years at the earliest.

Toyota ranked the highest among legacy automakers trusted by the public to bring out a self-driving car; 15 percent cited it as most trusted while General Motors ranked second with nine percent.

Six percent of respondents said Uber was their top pick. Volkswagen and Lyft each received two percent of the vote.

Waymo – considered by many to be one of the leading innovators in the self-driving space – ranked last with less than one percent citing them as the brand they trusted the most to bring a self-driving car to market. The Autolist survey did not specify that Waymo is a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet since the polling was aimed at gauging name recognition and trust. Thus, poor name recognition could have affected Waymo’s low ranking.

Six percent of respondents said “Other.”

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