People don’t trust driverless cars. Researchers are trying to change that

This October, television and web viewers were treated to an advertisement featuring basketball star LeBron James taking a ride in a driverless car. At first, James—known for his fearlessness on the court—peers in doubtfully at the vacant driver's seat and declares: "Nope." But after a short trip in the back seat, he has changed his tune. "Hey yo, I'm keepin' this!" James exclaims to friends.

The ad, from computer chip–maker Intel in Santa Clara, California, is aimed at overcoming what could be one of the biggest obstacles to the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles (AVs): consumer distrust of the technology. Unnerved by the idea of not being in control—and by news of semi-AVs that have crashed, in one case killing the owner—many consumers are apprehensive. In a recent survey by AAA, for example, 78% of respondents said they were afraid to ride in an AV. In a poll by insurance giant AIG, 41% didn't want to share the road with driverless cars.

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