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Older drivers like active safety features, resist autonomous vehicles: Munich Re survey


March 15, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter


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A new survey out of the United States exploring the sentiments of older drivers 65 and over shows about half of the respondents would not be comfortable riding in an autonomous vehicle, but they see great value in active safety features.

“Older drivers are increasingly comfortable with and recognize the benefits of active safety technology, but they are still reluctant to relinquish total control to an autonomous vehicle,” note results of the online survey from Munich Re, conducted in co-ordination with Google.

The survey was carried out in the United States using Google Consumer Surveys from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2016, notes a statement from Munich Re, which combines primary insurance and reinsurance and operates in all lines of insurance. The poll used a validated, representative sample of 1,001 respondents aged 65 and older.

Related: Auto executive warns U.S. Congress it will be ‘pretty hard’ to make autonomous vehicles ‘safe in all conditions’

Results indicate that 49% of respondents would be uncomfortable riding in a fully autonomous vehicle and a similar percentage, 53%, are not interested in ride-sharing services because they prefer driving themselves, even if ridesharing services were available at a reasonable cost.

That said, older drivers appear to embrace active safety features. Almost two-thirds of those polled (63%) report that they intend to purchase their next vehicle with active safety technology.

Related: Global consumers skeptical about safety of fully autonomous vehicles: Deloitte study

Senior drivers also seem willing to put their money where their mouths are. “Of those surveyed, 44% said they would be willing to pay more for a vehicle with active safety features if the added cost is less than $5,000,” the company statement adds.

Specifically, 41% identify improved safety of elderly drivers as the greatest benefit of active safety features, 19% cite maintaining their independence and 13% note reducing societal costs from accidents.

In addition, 51% of those polled cite blind spot detectors as the most sought-after features, 43% point to back-up cameras and 31% identify automated braking.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) reports there will be more than 40 million drivers on the road in the 65 and older age group by 2020, notes the Munich Re statement.

“Drivers over age 65 are currently one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in the U.S. and are more susceptible to accidents given the challenges they face such as declining vision, decreased flexibility and slower reflexes,” it cites NHSTA as reporting.

“Active vehicle safety technology has the potential to reduce crashes in any age group, but may offer specific benefits for older drivers,” says Mike Scrudato, head of the Mobility Domain at Munich Re, U.S.

“For example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that rear cameras had the biggest benefit for drivers aged 70 and older, reducing the back-up crash rate by 40% compared with 15% for drivers younger than 70 years old,” Scrudato reports.

Older driver support for active safety features, however, does not extended to fully automated vehicles. “They are still reluctant to relinquish total control to a car’s internal systems,” Munich Re notes.

“Autonomous vehicle technology has the ability to transform the U.S. transportation ecosystem,” Scrudato says.

“While widespread adoption may still be some years away, this technology carries a variety of opportunities and potential risk exposures that governments, regulators and the insurance industry must begin to prepare for now,” he maintains.

Related: Most companies unprepared for emergence of autonomous vehicles: Munich Re survey