Auto Service World
News   January 20, 2017   by Adam Malik

Skepticism still clouds autonomous cars

An autonomous vehicle prototype from Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project company.

The autonomous vehicle is coming. At least, that’s what you hear around just about every corner. But just because it sounds imminent, that doesn’t mean that people are ready to embrace the technology with open arms.

A recent study from accounting and business advisory services firm Deloitte in the U.S. found that safety is a major concern among consumers and they “hold widely divergent views on who they trust to bring autonomous vehicles to market.”

The study, What’s ahead for fully autonomous driving, focused on responses from the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea, India and Germany – in all, 17 countries and 22,000 consumers were surveyed – and looked at safety, powertrains systems, cockpit technology and how much willing people were willing to pay for self-driving cars.

While interest was up in China (4 per cent), the U.S. (3 per cent) and Japan (1 per cent), South Koreans were down 16 per cent in their desire for autonomous vehicles. India (7 per cent) and Germany (3 per cent) were also down.

Much of that has to do with safety – 81 per cent of South Koreans do not feel autonomous vehicles will be safe. In Japan, it’s 79 per cent and 74 per cent in the U.S. German (72 per cent), Indian (64 per cent) and Chinese (62 per cent) consumers also raised concerns.

But many are open to changing their opinion. Eighty-one per cent of Chinese consumers feel “an established track record of fully autonomous cars being safely used would make them more likely to ride in one.” Americans were not as strong, but still more than two-thirds had the same opinion. Only 47 per cent of Germans were positive, however.

There are also issues around trust as the study found differing views on who would be best to bring self-driving cars to market.

“Automakers and technology companies first have to earn consumers’ trust … Today trust is lacking.”

“In the U.S., less than half of consumers (47 per cent) trust a traditional car manufacturer to bring autonomous vehicles to market,” said a Deloitte news release on the study. “The news is worse for Silicon Valley technology companies with only 20 percent of U.S. consumers indicating they trust these companies when it comes to autonomous vehicle technology. Another 27 percent of U.S. consumers indicate they would trust a new company specializing in autonomous vehicle technology.”

Craig Giffi, Cleveland-based vice chairman and U.S. automotive industry leader at Deloitte LLP, co-authored the report. He commented in the news release that “automakers and technology companies first have to earn consumers’ trust, then turn that trust into a willingness to pay for a must-have feature. Today trust is lacking. Ironically, fully autonomous vehicles are being engineered to be much safer than today’s vehicles.”

Winning that trust will be challenge, he added. “Automakers will need to integrate limited self-driving and advanced-safety features into new product offerings steadily over time to introduce people to the technology, demonstrate the improvement for vehicle safety and develop a proven track record.”

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