Consumer confidence in self-driving vehicles shaky, finds study

Consumers have a low level of confidence about the future of self-driving vehicles and are not yet comfortable with the idea of riding in a self-driving car, according to a new survey.

The inaugural J.D. Power 2019 Mobility Confidence Index study found that despite the billions of dollars being invested by manufacturers into autonomous and electric vehicles, consumers currently have a low level of confidence in self-driving vehicles.

The new quarterly study, run jointly with SurveyMonkey, aims to assess the pulse of market readiness and acceptance for self-driving and battery-electric vehicles through the eyes of consumers and industry experts. It divides sentiment into three categories: low (0-40), neutral (41-60) and positive (61-100).

The overall level of confidence was 36 for self-driving vehicles, found the study, with comfort about riding in a self-driving vehicle scoring 34, and comfort about being on the road with others in a self-driving vehicle scoring 35.

“Out of the box, these scores are not encouraging,” said Kristin Kolodge, Executive Director, Driver Interaction & Human Machine Interface Research at J.D. Power.

“As automakers head down the developmental road to self-driving vehicles and greater electrification, it’s important to know if consumers are on the same road—and headed in the same direction. That doesn’t seem to be the case right now.

“Manufacturers need to learn where consumers are in terms of comprehending and accepting new mobility technologies—and what needs to be done.”

Industry experts taking part in the research identified some key self-driving challenges – not least that perfecting self-driving technology is proving to be more challenging than originally thought.

J.D. Power said that industry experts also recognise the importance of marketing self-driving technology to consumers, in order to build understanding, trust and acceptance.

The research also highlighted differences in people’s expectations of when self-driving vehicles will be available.

The industry experts taking part anticipate that self-driving services such as public transits, deliveries and taxi/ride-hailing will reach the market in five to six years, while self-driving vehicles for purchase will arrive in about 12 years. Consumers, meanwhile, expect each mobility option to be available in closer to 10 years, according to the study.

The research also identified the top consumer concerns about the development of self-driving vehicles, with the highest proportion of respondents worried about technology failures and errors (71%), the risk of a vehicle being hacked (57%) and legal liability as the result of a collision (55%).

And while consumers are more hopeful than worried (65% vs. 34%) about the overall benefit of technology, more than a third (39%) aren't excited about any self-driving technology, found the poll.

Consumer knowledge about self-driving vehicles is also limited, with two-thirds of respondents (66%) saying they had little to no knowledge about self-driving vehicles.

The research also asked participants about the safety implications of self-driving vehicles. Consumers were evenly split (40% vs. 40%) on whether self-driving vehicles will improve traffic safety, with younger generations more confident that safety will improve when autonomous vehicles take to the roads.

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