What’s Fueling Autonomous Driving…and What’s Not

By Gina Pingitore

The race is in high gear as automakers compete with technology companies and other industry disruptors to put partially or fully autonomous vehicles on American roads.

To understand what’s happening in the race, we undertook a global survey of more than 22,000 consumers in 17 countries to learn about their preferences for autonomous technologies. The results tell us there’s good news, and, well, some bad news.

Good news: There’s demand for advanced vehicle technologies, especially from the young, and especially focused on safety.

Two-thirds of US consumers want advanced vehicle technologies

Findings show that 67 percent of US consumers have a strong desire for advanced vehicle automation features such as emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assistance, an increase of 11 percentage points over our 2014 survey results. Also, US consumer interest in partial self-drive features such as parking assist is at 43 percent (up from 38 percent), while fully self-drive interest has risen to 39 percent (from 36 percent).

Younger consumers can drive demand for more automation

Younger consumers may offer a sweet spot for automakers and tech players, as nearly 60 percent of Gen Y/Z respondents indicate strong interest in both partial and fully self-driving cars, a significantly higher percentage than all other US age groups surveyed.

For the young and old, safety comes first

Out of the 32 features tested in our study, the top five among US consumers are related to safety, including technologies that recognize the presence of objects on road and avoid collisions; inform the driver of dangerous driving situations; automatically take action in medical situations; and enable remote shutdown in cases of theft.

Bad news: we don’t want to pay more for it, and we worry about safety

Many consumers aren’t willing to pay for autonomous technologies

According to our findings, the amount US consumers say they will pay for various advanced vehicle technologies has declined by 30 percent compared to 2014. Perhaps more concerning, a significant share of American consumers suggest that the auto industry should bear the entire cost for bringing these advanced technologies to market.

Consumers are skeptical that fully self-driving vehicles will be safe

Although the majority of US consumers surveyed think driving in autonomous vehicles would be fun and would free-up time to do other things, three out of four are skeptical that self-driving cars will be safe anytime soon. However, many of those surveyed would be willing to try them at the point where there is an established safety record for such cars.

Consumers lack trust in automakers to bring advanced automotive technologies to market

More than 50 percent of US consumers say they would most trust nontraditional players to bring self-driving technology to market. And among those who do trust OEMs, no single brand has really emerged as a trusted leader in this area.

Ride-hailing services are a looming risk

While much has been said about the meteoric rise of ride-hailing services such as Uber, the majority (77 percent) of consumers surveyed has never or rarely use these services. But there is likely a risk. For those surveyed who do use ride-hailing services, their experience so far seems to be positive. Growing availability may change the playing field for auto sales down the road.

Three things for auto execs to consider

  1. Focus on safety features: Marketing advanced technologies as safety features can be a good way of getting Americans comfortable with various aspects of vehicle autonomy and is consistent with their current preferences and willingness to pay.
  2. Prioritize R&D investments: Safety technologies and fuel efficiency technologies appeal to many US consumers more than pure self-driving technologies. OEMs should critically assess their R&D strategies to better align investments with broad consumer interest.
  3. Tap into the broader innovation ecosystem and consider new partnerships: Automakers would likely be well served to develop alliances and investigate potential synergies with suppliers, tech providers, and, perhaps, fellow carmakers in an effort to reduce costs and streamline advanced R&D efforts.

Contact the co-authors of the full report: Craig A. Giffi, US Automotive Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP; Joe Vitale, Global Automotive Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP; Gina Pingitore, Managing Director of Deloitte Services LP’s Center for Industry Insights; Ryan Robinson, Director, Deloitte Canada LLP.

To read the full report, visit: The race to autonomous driving: Winning American consumers’ trust
To read additional global analysis, visit www.deloitte.com/autoconsumers.

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