University of Mannheim: People in the EU have mixed feelings about autonomous cars

The so-called Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), i.e. self-driving and networked vehicles, are now so well developed that nothing stands in the way of broad application on the road – at least from a technical point of view. The public acceptance of such cars among the population is not quite as clear. EU citizens from Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain consider the vehicles largely safe and sustainable, but are concerned whether they will also meet their expectations in terms of data security. This is the result of a new study carried out at the Chair of Consumer Psychology and Economic Psychology and published in the journal “Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behavior” has been published.

The team around Prof. Dr. Tobias Vogel, Prof. Dr. Florian Kutzner and Dr. Celina Kacperski asked 600 test persons from four European countries about their assessment of four factors: the efficiency of autonomous vehicles, their sustainability, driving safety and data protection compliance. The result: Most agree that automating the car will improve road safety and have a positive impact on the environment. Opinions differ as to whether these vehicles also influence efficiency in road traffic. This means, among other things, the travel time, the travel speed and the speed of the vehicles.

In contrast, the study participants tend to judge the influence on privacy negatively. They doubt the correct use of data that is generated while traveling and also see the risk of surveillance, especially by companies and governments. There are also differences between the individual countries: The residents of Italy and Great Britain are more optimistic, in Germany and France, however, there are fears of greater data protection violations.

“The ambivalent attitude of the study participants is surprising,” says study director Kacperski, commenting on the results of the survey. “Self-driving cars are often portrayed positively and with a lot of optimism in newspaper and television reports. This positive basic attitude of the media is not so clearly reflected in the opinions of the people. “

To the project

The EU joint project “PAsCal” has been funded by the EU Commission as part of the Horizon 2020 funding program since 2019 with a total of four million euros for three years. The University of Mannheim is the only institution from Germany among the thirteen consortium partners in the joint project.

The focus of the project is the attitudes of the EU population towards connected and autonomous cars, motorcycles, buses and trucks. Different social groups are surveyed, depending on age, education, income class or gender. The overarching goal of his sub-project is to derive concrete recommendations for politicians and to show them ways of improving the social acceptance of autonomous and networked vehicles and, if necessary, adapting the laws.