Willingness of people who are blind to accept autonomous vehicles: An empirical investigation

Bennett, Roger; Vijaygopal, Rohini and Kottasz, Rita (2020). Willingness of people who are blind to accept autonomous vehicles: An empirical investigation. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 69 pp. 13–27.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trf.2019.12.012

Abstract

Attitudes of a sample of 211 UK people who are blind concerning autonomous vehicles (AVs), and the determinants of the willingness of people who are blind to travel in AVs, were examined. Participants answered an open-ended question regarding their attitudes towards level 5 AVs and the results were analysed using a semi-automated structural topic modelling procedure. (Level 5 AVs are fully autonomous anywhere, and do not require controlled areas in which to operate.) Four “topics” emerged from the exercise: (i) “hope” for future independence and freedom to travel offered by AVs to people who are blind, (ii) scepticism that AVs will ever be configured to meet the needs of people who are blind, (iii) concerns over safety, and (iv) the affordability of AVs. The four topics were employed as mediating variables in a structural equation model designed to explain the respondents’ willingness to travel in an AV. A number of covariates were presumed to influence the four mediating topics, including a participant’s desire for independence, comorbidity, locus of control, and level of generalised anxiety. Three of the mediating variables exerted significant influences on willingness to travel in an AV, i.e., hope for future independence, misgivings about safety, and affordability. Scepticism about AVs did not have a significant effect. Several implications for AV design and for the creation of public information messages promoting AVs are suggested. In particular, public information campaigns should emphasise the freedom to travel that AVs will provide for people who are blind; reassurances concerning safety; and the inevitability of AVs appearing on the roads of economically developed countries.

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