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J.D. Power: Most consumers not embracing robotaxis in their communities

Consumers are not comfortable with the testing and deployment of robotaxis—defined as a fully automated, self-driving vehicle used exclusively for ride-hailing service—on their city streets, according to the inaugural J.D. Power U.S. Robotaxi Experience Study. The study provides the first consumer feedback from robotaxi riders and those who have interacted with robotaxis (non-riders) in their community.

Findings show that only 27% of non-riders are comfortable sharing the road with robotaxis and just 20% of all consumers nationally are comfortable with AV technology being tested on streets and highways near them.

However, robotaxi riders—who are new-tech adopters—are critical ambassadors for AV technology, as most tend to tout a positive experience. Consumer confidence in AV technology is fragile and positive first-hand experiences tend to build consumer trust, J.D. Power said.

Among riders, 47% 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 robotaxi capability during a ride experience.

These positive firsthand experiences can help educate other consumers, providing balance to news coverage that often focuses solely on the negative aspects of AVs. While many non-riders express concern for their safety and lack of trust in the technology as reasons they have not yet ridden in an AV, 81% express a desire to hear about others’ experiences before they ride in one.

Following are some key findings of the inaugural study:

  • Inquisitive consumers drive initial robotaxi usage: As with most new technologies, consumer interest in robotaxi usage is garnered by general curiosity (40%) and recommendations from a friend or colleague (37%). However, for the service to thrive and to establish repeat ridership, it must be viewed as more than a novelty since few riders utilize the service to multi-task (25%); avoid parking (22%); or don’t have the ability to drive short distances (e.g., intoxicated/under the influence of controlled substance) (18%).

  • Robotaxi riders’ critical needs not being met by current services: The four attributes that consumers perceive as important to consideration of using a robotaxi also have the lowest levels of satisfaction. They are cost to ride; service area coverage; accessibility for disabled passengers; and customer support during the ride. Improving performance of these key metrics is imperative for long-term adoption.

  • Most riders don’t think robotaxis drive better than humans: Despite the marketing hype of AVs making roads safer, nearly 60% of both riders and non-riders say they don’t think a robotaxi drives any better than a human. Those who say they think a robotaxi drives better associate it with obeying traffic laws, while those who say a robotaxi drives worse than a human mention abrupt and unnecessary stopping, as well as causing collisions/incidents.

The US Robotaxi Experience Study is based on responses from 408 consumers residing in Phoenix and San Francisco where robotaxi companies (e.g., Waymo, Cruise) are testing and deploying vehicles. To qualify, respondents had to ride in a fully automated, self-driving robotaxi or see a fully automated, self-driving robotaxi. These two groups of participants are classified as riders and non-riders, respectively. The study was fielded in July 2023.



I would guess that similar feelings will make themselves known with increasing 'attempt' at penetration for Tesla FSD and other autonomous driving at and above Level 3; mostly for the well articulated reason as above: "... Despite the marketing hype of ... making roads safer, ... [people] say they don’t think [it] drives any better ... 'drives better' [associated with] obeying traffic laws, while 'drives worse' [associated with] abrupt and unnecessary stopping, as well as causing collisions/incidents..."
It's not about 'grandma safe' - low speed, anxious stopping, overly-conservative turn waits, below posted speeds, etc. It's about 'managing the road', anticipation, traffic flow/ behaviour, etc., etc... very subjective/ experience-based - a good driver is more akin to 'reading the room' than sheepishly following laws and expecting the worst out of every scenario.


You might also ask, what is the benefit of robotaxis ?
IMO, they would have to be cheaper, and perhaps more available (or lower latency), otherwise there is no point.

In terms of FSD, IMO, it has to be able to drive you while you are asleep or drunk to be much use. OK, so bringing you along motorways or in traffic jams is useful, but you can do these yourself if you want to.

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