Letting go of the wheel:

Understanding the nature and role of consumer trust in autonomous vehicle adoption

Autonomous vehicles (AVs), for example, have the potential to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 10% past current EPA standards (Mersky & Samaras, 2016), in addition to reducing fatal crash rates (Fagnant & Kockelman, 2015), compared to human-operated vehicles, yet public acceptance of AVs remains low, with 54% of the general public expressing some level of worry about AV technology (Pew Research, 2018). This project examines the nature and influence of consumer trust on AV acceptance. Building on emerging work that has explored the influence of general trust in AVs on AV acceptance (Choi & Ji, 2015; Dixon et al., 2018; Liu et al., 2018), we conceptualize trust as being comprised of at least two conceptually distinct dimensions: relational trust, or integrity (i.e., trust grounded in morally-relevant information), and calculative trust, or competence (i.e., trust grounded in performance-relevant information). Prior work that suggests that a trust “heuristic” exists, but has fallen short of explicitly testing this notion. Previous work also suggests that judgements about integrity may depend in part on on judgements about competence. In Study 1, we test whether the relationship between trust and risk varies with experience and baseline risk judgements of a given domain, including AVs. In study 2, we use a messaging experiment to evaluate consumers’ support for AVs after exposure to different trust-based communications.

Project Phase: Studies 1-3: data collection complete; manuscripts in preparation.

Funding Acknowledgement: OSU Center for Automotive Research