Driverless Ambulances: A Possibility, but Will Patients Ride?

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provide a needed and necessary service in the healthcare industry worldwide. However, many EMS agencies find themselves understaffed to fill the needs of the communities they serve. As a result, this can lead to decreases in the quality of service provided in times of emergencies. Simultaneously, technology is advancing in driverless vehicles which pose the question of the possibility of building driverless ambulances and if so, patients’ willingness to ride in them. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine patients’ willingness to ride in an ambulance operated autonomously as opposed to one driven by a human. Affect measures were collected to determine if affect mediated the relationship between willingness to ride and the type of ambulance configuration. The research used a three-study approach to answer the research questions. First, a general scenario was used to examine patient's willingness to ride in an ambulance based on a human or driverless condition. In Study 2, the affect was implemented to serve as a mediator between the type of operator, human or driverless. In Study 3, the researchers used the six universal facial expressions to determine if specific emotions could be identified as mediators between the condition and willingness to ride score. Through the three studies, the findings indicated that patients were less willing to ride in the scenario where the ambulance was operated autonomously than in the traditional configuration. A significant interaction was found between gender and type of ambulance configuration, where females were less willing to ride in the autonomous ambulance than males. Affect was found to act as a mediator between willingness to ride and the type of ambulance. Additionally, through the use of the six universal facial expressions, it was determined that the mediating emotions for males were fear and happiness, and the mediating emotion for females was anger. In general, participants were not willing to ride in driverless ambulances; however, this finding is also limited by the hypothetical scenario posed in this study which was the need to be transported to the hospital due to phoning 911 in an emergency. Additional research should investigate how patients would feel about riding in a driverless ambulance based on the type of condition as it is possible the willingness to ride may be different in a non-emergency scenario. There may also be other factors that could predict a patient’s willingness to ride in a driverless ambulance. In summary, while driverless technology is becoming a near-term possibility, further research is needed into whether patients would be willing to accept this technology for usage.


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  • Accession Number: 01708252
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 24 2019 4:27PM