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Survey: Most people favor driver-support technology over self-driving vehicles

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Survey: Most people favor driver-support technology over self-driving vehicles
A self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan by Waymo is seen at the International CES at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev., on January 9, 2019. File Photo by James Atoa/UPI | License Photo

May 13 (UPI) -- Nearly eight in 10 people would prefer that the automobile industry put more effort into improving existing driver-support features than developing self-driving vehicles, according to a survey.

AAA said that its survey on American attitudes toward autonomous technology shows two main points -- that most drivers are at least somewhat skeptical of developing self-driving cars, and that they have good reason to be.

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The survey showed that 77% of respondents favored improving existing human-driver technologies, while just 18% preferred autonomous development.

Eighty-five percent of respondents, it found, said they're presently fearful or unsure of self-driving technology and would not be comfortable in an autonomous vehicle.

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"You can't sell consumers on the future if they don't trust the present," Greg Brannon, director of AAA's automotive engineering, said in a statement. "And drivers tell us they expect their current driving assistance technology to perform safely all the time.

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"But unfortunately, our testing demonstrates spotty performance is the norm rather than the exception."

In the latest of three separate rounds of semi-autonomous testing, AAA engineers found that the vehicles failed to prevent head-on collisions in all 15 test runs that faced an oncoming vehicle in the travel lane. And only one test vehicle significantly reduced its speed before the crash on each run.

Secretary of State John Kerry looks over a self-driving vehicle developed by Google at the Global Entrepreneurship's Innovation Marketplace in Palo Alto, Calif., on June 23, 2016. File Photo by U.S. Department of State/UPI

When a cyclist was crossing a travel lane, a collision occurred in five of 15 test runs, AAA said. For a cyclist moving in the same direction in a lane ahead of the test vehicle, no collisions occurred in any of the test runs.

"While it may be encouraging that these driving systems successfully spotted slow-moving cars and bicyclists in the same lane, the failure to spot a crossing bike rider or an oncoming vehicle is alarming," Brannon added. "A head-on crash is the deadliest kind, and these systems should be optimized for the situations where they can help the most."

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The AAA survey comes at a time when the industry is more geared toward autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles than ever before. Several companies -- including all the major automakers and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft -- have been developing various levels of autonomous technologies.

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Another company, Waymo, said earlier this week that it would start offering autonomous rides to the general public in parts of Phoenix as it expands its self-driving footprint.

An affiliate of Google, Waymo said that the option can be found in its smartphone app. The company's driverless cars have already been operating in Phoenix suburbs like Chandler, Mesa and Tempe.

Advanced autonomous technology is also being explored for other uses.

In California, the San Francisco Police Department has found that self-driving vehicles -- with its cameras and sensors -- could be used for surveillance.

Vice reported that a police document notes that autonomous vehicles record their surroundings continuously and could offer "potential to help with investigative leads."

The document also noted that investigations have already "done this several times."

The San Francisco Police Department clarified, however, that it hasn't used any vehicles for surveillance purposes so far. The department told Axios that it hasn't "surreptitiously [surveilled] people" in the city with driverless vehicle technology.

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With regard to law enforcement, Waymo has said its policy "is to challenge, limit or reject requests that do not have a valid legal basis or that are overly broad."

"We work closely with law enforcement on our common goal of making our roads safer," a spokesperson for Cruise, General Motors' autonomous division, said according to Axios.

"We share footage and other information when we are served with a valid warrant or subpoena, and we may voluntarily share information if public safety is at risk."

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