Perception of Risk in Automotive Systems

Human Factors, 1989, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 377-389, 1989

13 Pages Posted: 13 May 2011

See all articles by Donald G. MacGregor

Donald G. MacGregor

MacGregor-Bates, Inc.

Paul Slovic

Decision Research; University of Oregon - Department of Psychology

Date Written: 1989


Thirty subsystems constituting a functioning motor vehicle, including brake, steering, suspension, engine, electrical, and fuel systems, were evaluated by individuals on a set of risk characteristic scales. These included overall vehicle riskiness, likelihood of severe consequences in the event of system failure, controllability of the vehicle, and observability of impending failure. An analysis of the resulting judgments revealed two composite factors, one representing the controllability of consequences and the other representing observability. Both factors were highly related to judgments of risk, desire for risk regulation, and anticipated recall compliance. A comparison of risk judgments with accident data suggested that for some vehicle systems, particularly those serving a communication function in the driving task, drivers may underestimate the actual risk they face when system performance has degraded.

Suggested Citation

MacGregor, Donald G. and Slovic, Paul, Perception of Risk in Automotive Systems (1989). Human Factors, 1989, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 377-389, 1989. Available at SSRN:

Donald G. MacGregor (Contact Author)

MacGregor-Bates, Inc. ( email )

1010 Villard Ave.
Cottage Grove, OR 97424
United States
(541) 942-5727 (Phone)

Paul Slovic

Decision Research ( email )

1201 Oak Street, Suite 200
Eugene, OR 97401
United States
541-485-2400 (Phone)
541-485-2403 (Fax)


University of Oregon - Department of Psychology ( email )

Eugene, OR 97403
United States
541-485-2400 (Phone)

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