Autonomous driving is a technology that could fundamentally change people’s lives, however, safety and liability concerns dominate public debates. For individuals, giving up control and trusting the car’s technology is an obstacle that has yet to be overcome. To address this issue, we investigated the impact of institution-based trust on trust in autonomous vehicles and on the adoption process. Therefore, we built on the technology acceptance model and included the level of perceived uncertainty, anthropomorphism and individual disposition to trust. A PLS-SEM (n = 286) shows that trust in technology is pivotal for the intention to use autonomous vehicles. We identify institution-based trust, more specifically the subdimensions perceived technical protection and situational normality, as the major drivers of trust in autonomous driving technologies. Furthermore, we find that uncertainty moderates the relationship between perceived technical protection and trust. This article contributes to the academic discourse on the adoption of autonomous vehicles by highlighting the relevance of institution-based trust to overcome structural barriers in the adoption process. Furthermore, it highlights the interplay of institution-based trust with technical and individual antecedents of trust, thereby enlightens mechanisms of the trust building process and provides comprehensive empirical evidence on the relative importance of trust’s determinants.