Audi study shows 5 user types of autonomous driving

Suspicious driver or tech-savvy passenger? The initiative &Audi has examined what people think about autonomous driving. A total of 21,000 respondents from three continents gave insights into their attitudes towards self-driving cars.

09/25/2019 Reading Time: 7 min

What is the study about?

In the representative online study “The Pulse of Autonomous Driving”, Audi produced a user typology of autonomous driving in the framework of the initiative &Audi. In cooperation with the Ipsos market research institute, the initiative interviewed 21,000 people from China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and the USA – and examined the influence of rational arguments, emotions, values and lifestyles on attitudes to autonomous driving.

What do people think about autonomous driving?

Autonomous driving is a top theme across borders: 90 percent of respondents have heard about the technology. The study shows great interest in and high curiosity about autonomous driving. 22 percent say that they know a lot about autonomous driving. But only 8 percent feel able to explain the subject. Practice is better than theory. More than half of respondents would like to test autonomous driving in accordance with this motto. High willingness is evident among frequent drivers and regular users of driver-assistance systems.


show interest in autonomous driving


are curious about the technology


want to try out autonomous driving

Portrait Dr. Luciano Floridi

Dr Luciano Floridi, Oxford Internet Institute, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information and Director of the Digital Ethics Lab, University of Oxford, and member of the scientific network of the &Audi initiative. (Photo: Ian Scott)

“This study is more than just a welcome addition to our knowledge of the phenomenon of autonomous driving; it is a necessary step for any policy- and law-making decision, as well R&D and business strategy, that intends to be proactive and informed in delivering a better world.”

What advantages do the respondents see?

People see potential for themselves in terms of convenience and more safety. And they also see advantages for society, especially when it comes to better access to mobility for the elderly, children, persons with handicaps and people without a driving license. Regular users of car-sharing and ride-sharing services, in particular, see potential here.

But how can the time in an autonomously driving car be used best? Interest is highest in enjoying the view, reading, listening to music and watching movies, followed by talking to other passengers. The situation is different with more physical activities: respondents can hardly imagine doing fitness exercises or trying on clothes in a self-driving car.

What concerns do the study’s participants have?

People’s concerns also become clear. 41 percent of respondents report that they are suspicious, and somewhat more than one third are anxious. They are cautious about handing over control to the car; after all, this is a big step in the relationship between man and machine. People wonder if the car will be able to assess all situations independently.

Reports about accidents with automated cars, by contrast, make little impression: 55 percent of the people surveyed have heard of such accidents. Among almost two thirds of those respondents, reports of accidents have not led to a change in their attitude to autonomous driving.

Are people ready for autonomously driving cars?

The Human Readiness Index (HRI) provides insights into how attitudes to autonomous driving are related to sociodemographics. Young, well-paid and well-educated – these are the people who are most looking forward to autonomous vehicles.  

There are also differences between the countries in the survey: the Chinese are euphoric about it, and South Koreans, too, take an above-average positive view of the technology. The Spanish and Italians are the pioneers in Europe. Germans and the French are still cautious, like Americans, the Japanese and the British.

Which user type is most excited about self-driving cars?

The differences are even greater when attitudes towards autonomous driving are considered in the context of people’s lives – that is, taking into consideration their guiding values and lifestyles. Five user types for autonomous driving emerged, ranging from rejection to enthusiasm.

The suspicious driver

Interest in autonomous driving? Not in the case of the suspicious driver. People of this type prefer to take the wheel themselves. As fans of safety, they are fundamentally critical of the unknown – and this also applies to new technologies. They prefer the status quo. Suspicious drivers have no emotional attachment to the car. For them, a car is an item for handling everyday tasks. They do not need the latest technology for this. They will not turn their attention to self-driving cars until a large majority of people are already driving autonomously on the roads. 14 percent of global respondents fall into this category. This type is most often encountered in Germany (26 percent), the USA (23 percent) and France (21 percent). The Human Readiness Index of the suspicious driver is –8.4.

The safety-oriented reluctant

Safety-oriented reluctants tend to be reserved about autonomous driving. They have low interest in autonomous driving and do not know much about it. Nevertheless, they do have some curiosity: for example, safety-oriented reluctants can imagine the autonomous car taking control in congestion on a highway, so long as they can intervene at any time – or when parking. This makes it clear that safety is the key point for them, and they are less in search of adventure. This type, at 24 percent of respondents, is the second-largest group in the typology. The safety-oriented reluctant is found most often in Japan (31 percent), France (30 percent) and the United Kingdom (28 percent). Their Human Readiness Index is –2.8.

The open-minded co-pilot

Open-minded co-pilots basically regard autonomous driving in a positive light. However, they do not see things in black and white. They expect greater safety and more convenience from autonomously driving cars, but wish to be able to intervene at all times. Most of all, they would like to have their own car for autonomous driving. Here it is important to them that self-driving cars have previously been tested in real situations on public roads, ideally in a variety of different weather and road conditions. 30 percent of respondents are in the open-minded co-pilot category, making this the largest user group, especially well represented in South Korea (37 percent), Japan (35 percent), Italy (33 percent) and Spain (32 percent). The Human Readiness Index of the open-minded co-pilot is +1.3.

The status-oriented trendsetter

Life can always get even better: in search of excitement and adventure, new technologies are just the thing for trendsetters. They are correspondingly open to the idea of trying out autonomous driving. More than others, status-oriented trendsetters believe that it will improve their image. Nevertheless, they take a thoughtful look at the technology: they regard safety aspects more critically than many others. They would also like to find out more about the systems and the algorithms behind them. Ultimately, the trendsetter is convinced that the technology will win out if reputable manufacturers take care of developing it. In total 16 percent of respondents are status-oriented trendsetters. This type of person is found most frequently in South Korea (28 percent) and the USA (22 percent). The Human Readiness Index of the status-oriented trendsetter is +3.3.

The tech-savvy passenger

Tech-savvy passengers would ideally like to get aboard self-driving cars today. For them it is only a question of time before autonomous driving becomes reality. Openness and flexibility play a key role in their lives. They are the only user type for whom the loss of control is not the principal concern. Their reservations are more about issues such as the lack of a legal framework. As technology fans they are not afraid of being merely a passenger. They believe in positive effects such as easier access to mobility, greater convenience and above all greater safety on the road. Tech-savvy passengers are highly aware of environmental issues, and also use bicycles and public transport systems alongside cars. In total, 16 percent of respondents are tech-savvy passengers. They are found most often in China (46 percent). The Human Readiness Index of the tech-savvy passenger is +8.4.

Portrait Thomas Müller

Thomas Müller, head of Automated Driving at Audi

“Automated and autonomous driving has the potential to improve our mobility substantially. On the way there, alongside technical development, it is of decisive importance to convince people. The study provides us with differentiated insights about where people stand in relation to autonomous driving and how we can establish suitable expectations about the new technology in society.”

What can we learn from the study?

The study identifies key areas for action that help to determine the social acceptance of autonomous driving:

Increase knowledge

The results make it clear that there is room for more knowledge about autonomous driving. There is potential to enhance know-how about technical aspects, the social benefits of the technology and its limits. The aim is to establish appropriate expectations of the opportunities and limitations of the technology in society.

Appeal to needs

The user typology reveals differences in attitudes to autonomous driving depending on the context of people’s lives. Varying needs should be met with specific offers of autonomous driving. These offers can range from specific information to experience of technology.

Cooperative approach

Certified safety, a legal framework, reliable technologies: the study points to measures that would enhance confidence in autonomous driving. Here it is evident that interdisciplinary cooperation between business, science, politics and other societal stakeholders is necessary in responding to people’s hopes and demands.

Download study

Summary of the study

24 pages, EN


1.9 MB

Study in detail

52 pages, EN


8.8 MB

Initiative &Audi


Initiative &Audi

The Audi initiative for a responsable use of new technological developments such as autonomous driving and artificial intelligence.

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