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Survey: Most Don't Trust Autonomous Cars As JTA Imagines Driverless Future

As fully autonomous cars and other vehicles move closer to becoming a reality on Jacksonville’s roadways, a new study shows the majority of Americans still don’t trust the technology.

Credit General Motors
General Motors says the Cruise AV is designed to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals or other manual controls. GM hopes to have it on the road in 2019.

The AAA auto club found 63 percent of U.S. motorists would be afraid to ride in a self-driving car. Although, that’s a significant decrease from 78 percent in early 2017.

At the same time, auto manufacturers and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) are pursuing fully autonomous vehicles.

JTA is testing self-driving electric people movers to likely replace and expand the Skyway monorail system.

JTA first tested a $300,000 autonomous vehicle in December, when it launched a test trackacross the street from Intuition Ale Works on Bay Street. That vehicle, the EZ10 from EasyMile/Transdev, fits 12 people and includes a touch screen display and tinted windows.

Limited test runs were done during special events. The next phase of testing kicks off in March.  

“We will have a second-generation AV [autonomous vehicle] shuttle out there, and that one will be wrapped with the U2C, or Ultimate Urban Circulator, colors on it. And with that we will have a schedule for the public, when they’ll be able to come out and take a ride on it and provide some feedback,” said JTA spokeswoman Leigh Ann Rassler.

JTA is evaluating funding options to add the autonomous people movers throughout the urban core. A price tag for the anticipated system hasn’t been announced, but JTA has said it will be testing different autonomous vehicles for the next two years.

More Information About JTA's Project: Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C)

No matter the results of JTA's tests, partially autonomous cars are already cruising Jacksonville’s interstates. For example, new Cadillacs can be equipped with Super Cruise, and Tesla offers Autopilot.
Those cars can accelerate, brake, and follow the curves of certain roads, all without human interaction once activated. Other auto manufacturers have similar systems either already in production or under development.

Earlier this month General Motors showed off its first production-ready car with no steering wheel or pedals. The Cruise EV is based on the Chevrolet Bolt electric car.

General Motors is filing a petition asking the Department of Transportation for permission to deploy the self-driving vehicle in 2019.

The level of a car's automation is ranked on a scale of 0 to 6 by SAE International’s J33016 standard for automakers, suppliers and policymakers. Most vehicles on the road today rank somewhere between levels 0 and 2:

Level 0 – No automation

Level 1 – Driver Assistance: This includes functions like automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, which allows a car to accelerate and stop on its own.

Level 2 – Partial Automation: These cars can steer, accelerate and brake on their own in certain situations. This is the highest level of what’s on public roadways today.

Level 3 – Conditional Automation: In good weather conditions the car can manage most aspects of driving.

Level 4 – High Automation: The car can operate without human input but only under certain conditions.

Level 5 – Full Automation:  The driverless car can operate on any road a human driver could negotiate.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.