Study: Driverless cars must be designed around user personality to succeed

The researchers found that openness to experience impacted both information sharing and need for control preferences.

Yandex's autonomous car on a test drive in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2019 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Yandex's autonomous car on a test drive in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2019
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Driverless vehicle technologies have long promised to transform our societies and urban experiences, eliminating traffic jams and fatal road accidents.
Yet the key to handing over control of the steering wheel might not be a question of technology, but rather a matter of trust.
In a 2017 study carried out by the American Automobile Association, 78% of Americans said they were afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle. Researchers found that baby boomers (85%) were more likely to be afraid than millennials (73%) and Generation X (75%) drivers, and women (85%) were more likely to be afraid than men (69%).
Seeking to ensure that autonomous vehicle technology overcomes the psychological barrier, a study published by researchers from IDC Herzliya claims that vehicles need to be designed around the personality of the user to successfully penetrate the market.
Prof. Yair Amichai-Hamburger (Credit: Gabriel Baharlia)Prof. Yair Amichai-Hamburger (Credit: Gabriel Baharlia)
“There were a lot of great technologies that did not succeed, as they didn't take the user into account – it is always a challenge for new technologies,” said Prof. Yair Amichai-Hamburger, director of the Research Center for Internet Psychology at IDC Herzliya and lead author of the study.
“When I started reading literature about driverless cars and the issue of trust, I started thinking about the stereotypes of the engineers and the people building the cars. I realized that they didn't consider one of the main factors: the personality of the passenger.”
The study focused on preferences regarding information exchange systems in fully-autonomous (Level 5) cars, using the "big-five" personality questionnaire to assess more than 150 participants' willingness to share information with other road users, and the need for control by receiving information from the vehicle. The findings were published recently in peer-reviewed journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
The researchers found that openness to experience impacted both information sharing and need for control preferences. Individuals who are open to experience are willing to share information with others, including engineers and the police, and are also more likely to pursue greater control by requesting additional safety information.
Individuals who score highly on conscientiousness, characterized by carrying tasks out diligently, also showed a greater need for control and information from the car.
This is the first study showing that information exchange should be designed around the personality of the people. The idea is that if people will know ahead that they are getting a car designed around them, they will have a higher level of trust in the car and they will feel the car is answering their psychological needs,” said Amichai-Hamburger.
“In a future world, you will enter the car, place your ID card after filling out a personality questionnaire. The car will receive your information and design the experience based on your psychological identification.”
While trust presents a major obstacle for market penetration, Amichai-Hamburger explains that it is a barrier that must be overcome to ultimately make roads safer. He is now seeking automotive industry partners to embrace both technology development and psychological needs.
Designing solutions around the personality of the user can be extended to a series of different technologies, Amichai-Hamburger said, including for improved interactions between robots and human beings.
Yet he is also quick to caution that such technologies should only be used to improve the well-being of users and not the financial well-being of companies, who gain an insight into how to manipulate users for advertising or other purposes.
“Knowledge of personality will not just be knowledge, but also the ability to influence. It is a big challenge,” Amichai-Hamburger said.