Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche recently commented on the debate surrounding the safety of Boeing’s aircraft. The plane crashes show how hard it can be to win public acceptance of autonomous car technology.

Regulators across the world have grounded the 737 MAX aircraft pending an investigation into whether Boeing’s software-based automated flight control system is safe.

“What is very important is the psychological dimension. If you look at what is happening with Boeing then you can imagine what happens when such a system has an incident,” Zetsche said, commenting on the motor industry’s efforts to develop autonomous cars.

Half of U.S. adults think self-driving vehicles are more dangerous than those driven by people, while two-thirds would not buy a fully autonomous vehicle, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found this week. In the same poll, about 63 percent of respondents said they would not pay more to have a self-driving feature on their vehicle, and 41 percent of the rest said they would not pay more than $2,000.

Accidents, including a fatality involving an Uber test vehicle in Arizona last year, have grabbed public attention and reinforced perceptions that self-driving technology is not yet ready.

The auto industry should introduce autonomous systems in stages, as a way to build acceptance for complex but potentially safety-enhancing automotive technology, Zetsche said at the Auto Motor and Sport conference in Stuttgart.

“Even if autonomous cars are 10 times safer than those driven by humans, it takes one spectacular incident to make it much harder to win widespread acceptance,” he said.

© 2019 First XV. All rights reserved.