BOISE – According to new research by AAA, 77% of drivers say they want automakers to focus on improving current driver assistance systems over producing self-driving cars.  And with good reason – during AAA testing, three vehicles with Level 2 partial automation failed to consistently avoid collisions with oncoming vehicles and bicyclists that crossed their path.

During 15 runs on a closed course, the three vehicles that AAA tested were able to avoid striking a bicyclist dummy and a foam car from behind.  But a head-on collision with an approaching vehicle that had crossed the center line occurred during all 15 tests, and when bicyclist dummies crossed in front of the test vehicles, a potentially life-threatening crash occurred 33% of the time.

“Drivers clearly favor an incremental approach to rolling out advanced driver assistance features, starting with improving the ones we already have,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde.  “The potential is there, but as self-driving technology moves forward, efforts to get to the finish line and a commitment to protect the safety of all road users need to go hand in hand.”

AAA reports that nearly 85% of Americans are afraid or unsure about riding in self-driving cars, the same as in recent years.  But drivers show strong interest in features that are currently available, like automatic emergency braking (63%) and lane-keeping assistance (60%).  About 80% also say that improving vehicle fuel economy is a major priority.

“AAA research shows that 12% of Americans incorrectly believe that they can purchase a self-driving car right now, while 53% are unsure if they can,” Conde said.  “Please keep in mind that even the most advanced vehicles on the road today cannot be safely operated without an engaged human driver who is ready to take over at a moment’s notice.”

In additional AAA research, only 22% of drivers would feel comfortable riding in a slow-speed people mover, while just 15% would trust their children or loved ones riding in one.  About a third of drivers are comfortable with the idea of self-driving food or package delivery vehicles.

“There are many exciting things on the horizon, and today’s technology is off to a good start.  But we have a long way to go, perhaps decades, before a vehicle will truly be able to drive on its own in all circumstances,” Conde said.  “Until then, vehicle owners should do their homework and have a clear understanding of what the technology in their car can and cannot do.  Lives depend on it.”