Survey identifies autonomous vehicle challenges for traditional carmakers


As the future of mobility shifts towards autonomous vehicles, traditional carmakers and suppliers will have their work cut out on two fronts: competing with tech companies for autonomous profits, and exposing consumers to the benefits offered by self-driving vehicles.

That’s according to a new survey exploring consumers’ views of autonomous vehicles, released at last week’s Technology in Motion conference in Detroit by business advisory firm AlixPartners.

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, traditional auto companies and suppliers have a big, two-front battle ahead of them

On a positive note for developers, almost a third of those questioned (29%) claim they’d be willing to consider buying an autonomous vehicle, and, on average, pay an incremental $2,600 for doing so.

A fifth of this group (20%) were identified as early adopters, who expect to buy an autonomous vehicle in its first year on sale, and are happy to pay an incremental $3,500 or more to do so.

At the same time, found the research, nearly half of those surveyed (49%) don’t yet feel confident that autonomous vehicles will be able to navigate them safely, while a majority (55%) said they are unlikely to consider purchasing an autonomous vehicle.

Safety is front of mind for consumers when it comes to autonomy, with 84% of respondents expressing concern about vehicle software malfunctions and a similar proportion (80%) worried about potential hardware malfunctions.

Perhaps as a result, traditional carmakers are at a disadvantage to tech companies when it comes to consumer trust. Half of respondents (50%) say they would trust tech companies most to maintain their data privacy in an autonomous vehicle, compared to just 14% for traditional car companies.

Similarly, nearly two-thirds (62%) say they would trust tech companies to protect their vehicle from hacking, compared to only 8% for carmakers.

However, despite these findings, consumers’ preferred approach for the development of autonomous vehicles is a partnership model between tech companies and traditional carmakers.

In positive news for developers, the survey found that consumer awareness of autonomous vehicles has increased from 90% in a similar survey in June 2016 to a near-universal 97% this year.

At the same time, the proportion of respondents who have experienced vehicles with at least some level of autonomous features has risen from 3% in last year’s survey to almost one in five respondents (18%) in this year’s poll. Almost half of this group (49%) say they feel ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ about autonomous vehicles’ ability to navigate safely.

“When it comes to autonomous vehicles, traditional auto companies and suppliers have a big, two-front battle ahead of them: educating the consumer about AVs and figuring out how to compete in the software end with highly-advantaged tech companies—or partner with them when that makes more sense,” said Mark Wakefield, global co-head of the automotive and industrial practice at AlixPartners.

“Either way, traditional auto will have to undertake massive operational and organizational changes to afford the autonomous-vehicle investments, be successful with partnerships and not get left out of the profitable parts of the new automotive ecosystem.”