Change can be scary. Instead of charging full steam ahead into the future and embracing the new, it can sometimes feel more comfortable to stick with those things that are familiar. This way of thinking is certainly present among car buyers. A new survey indicates that car owners remain leery of two innovations that have the potential to dramatically change the automotive world.
- A new study — put together by J.D. Power and SurveyMonkey, and known as the Mobility Confidence Index — shows that consumers lack confidence in two key future mobility technologies: battery electric vehicles (EVs) and self-driving cars.
- According to the index, consumer confidence in self-driving vehicles scores a mere 36 on a 100-point scale.
- The index shows that consumer confidence in EVs comes in at just 55 on the same scale.
- This survey is conducted quarterly, and overall scores have remained the same for three consecutive quarters.
The study polled more than 6,000 consumers and industry experts about self-driving vehicles; more than 5,000 were polled for their thoughts on EVs. When it comes to gauging overall confidence, there were three broad categories: low (0-40), neutral (41-60) and positive (61-100).
A demonstration of Tesla’s AutoPilot feature. (Video: YouTube)
Neutral on EVs
EVs — which, relative to self-driving cars, have been on the market for a longer period of time — earn neutral consumer confidence in this survey. The overall index score for these vehicles has remained at 55 for three straight quarters. These two attributes had the lowest score: likelihood of buying an EV and reliability relative to that of gas-powered vehicles.
Wary of self-driving cars
The study shows there appears to be a big disconnect between the media’s take on self-driving cars and actual consumer sentiment. The press has largely been excited about this innovation; consumers, not so much. According to the index, consumers have low confidence regarding self-driving vehicles. It’s been that way for several months; confidence in this technology has remained stuck at 36 on the index’s 100-point scale for three quarters in a row.
Two attributes scored lower than all the rest: comfort riding in a self-driving vehicle and comfort riding on self-driving public transit.
Split on safety
When it comes to whether self-driving cars will improve traffic safety, consumers are divided. The study reveals that 59 percent of those who identify themselves as having “a great deal” of knowledge regarding self-driving technology believe that autonomous cars will help create safer streets. Among this who claim to have “no knowledge at all” about this innovation, 55 percent assert that self-driving cars will negatively impact road safety.
One respondent felt self-driving cars are a superior alternative to the distracted driving that often takes place in a world in which many are glued to their devices. Another expressed a desire to see more research done to test the safety of self-driving vehicles.
Knowledge impacts the purchasing decision
One of the study’s most striking takeaways concerns the impact knowledge has on consumer consideration. Overall, a mere 11 percent of respondents said they are “extremely likely” to purchase or lease a self-driving vehicle. However, there was a great deal of variance depending on how informed the respondent is about the technology. Among those who claim to know “a great deal” about self-driving cars, 32 percent are “extremely likely” to lease or buy one. With those who purport to know “nothing at all” about this innovation, the likelihood of purchasing or leasing one of these vehicles plummets to three percent.
A demonstration of NVIDIA’s autonomous driving features. (Video: YouTube)
Automakers have work to do
“This data should be alarming to automakers, who have work to do in informing and persuading consumers to accept self-driving vehicles,” says Jon Cohen, Chief Research Officer at SurveyMonkey. “Only 32 percent of consumers say they know a great deal or a fair amount about self-driving vehicles. And only 18 percent say they are extremely or very comfortable riding in a self-driving vehicle. The same percentage say they are extremely or very comfortable being on the road with others using self-driving vehicles.”
WHY THIS MATTERS
The index shows that most consumers remain relatively uninformed about self-driving cars; that’s disappointing. However, this also presents an opportunity, since the survey shows that consumer consideration increases as potential buyers gain more knowledge about the technology. The data seems to indicate that if automakers can successfully raise awareness about autonomous cars, they’ll be able to spark greater demand for these vehicles.