The following paper has been published.
Chikaraishi, M., Khan, D., Yasuda, B., Fujiwara, A. (2020) Risk Perception and Social Acceptability of Autonomous Vehicles: A Case Study in Hiroshima, Japan, Transport Policy (In Press).
Given the impending introduction of self-driving cars to Japan within the next several years, gaining a better understanding of public opinion and risk perception of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is crucial. Though AVs have numerous potential social and economic benefits, including reduced travel time and environmental impacts, their implementation will depend on public acceptance. This study expanded on existing work by directly examining which aspects of AV use and function most affect risk perception. Participants were shown short animated video clips depicting the introduction of AVs into society at large, as well as three specific possible risk factors: system error, external interference with car controls (i.e., hacking), and the inability of the car to cope with unexpected events. Participants were then surveyed about their attitudes toward AVs and other potentially risky activities and technologies. The study established that the perceived advantages of all AV types (cars and buses, different automation levels) outweighed their perceived risks. Consistent with prior research, the two major aspects of perceived risk were dread and unfamiliarity. The results showed compared with other technologies, AV scores were neutral for dread risk but higher for unfamiliarity risk. The finding of high unfamiliarity indicates that public acceptance and perceived risks are likely to change as the public’s knowledge increases. We also found that receiving information about a potential system error indirectly reduced AV acceptability, where dread and unfamiliarity to the AV risks served as mediators. The results suggest that proper management on the diffusion of information, which includes public information campaigns, test-ride events and transparency about safety options, will likely influence the ultimate social acceptability of AVs and will be crucial towards its successful introduction on the market.