Google, Uber, Ford, BMW, ARM – the list goes on and on for big tech and auto companies looking to develop driverless cars. The race to bring driverless cars to market is definitely in full swing, with the self-driving future seemingly driving into every industry segment. Cyber security and the fears of hacked cars, government and regulation, FS and insurance – every industry has an interest in the driverless future.
However, the main protagonist in all this may have been overlooked – the consumer.
Driverless cars will only succeed if there is consumer appetite – appetite which is currently at odds to the huge R&D investment big tech and auto companies are funneling into driverless.
According to the latest automotive survey from Deloitte, only a third of British consumers would be interested in owning a car.
Although interest in owning driverless cars remains low, those championing the future tech can look to the increase in appetitie as somewhat of a silver lining – Britian is the only European country in the survey where interest for fully autonomous vehicles has increased.
Between 2014 and 2016, , the proportion of drivers interested in the technology has increased slightly, from 29% to 32%. Interest is also higher among British consumers for advanced automation technology in vehicles, such as adaptive cruise control or lane centering technology. 59% of people would like these technologies in their vehicle, an increase from 51% in 2014.
However, in another blow to the driverless industry, consumers increasingly expect such technology as standard and are less willing to pay an excess for its inclusion. On average, consumers say they are willing to pay £375 for advanced automation technologies, down from £677 in Deloitte’s last survey.
The questions that driverless car makers should be asking is, what do consumers really want? The resounding answer to that question is safety.
Safety features were ranked as the most preferred individual feature, with self-driving features left trailing behind. The report found that consumers want to see vehicle technologies which recognise objects on the road and avoid collision, inform or block the driver of dangerous driving situations and take steps in medical emergencies or accidents.
Not only are consumers less interested in self-driving and convenience features, but they also don’t want to pay for them. 60% of UK consumers did not want to pay anything for these technologies and just 7% were willing to pay £400 or more. Of least interest to consumers were cockpit technologies that help manage daily activities, provide passengers with customised entertainment while driving, provide notifications when places of interest are near and allow the use of smartphone applications through the vehicle dashboard.
The cyber security implications of connected cars has also not been lost on the consumer, again adding to the reluctance to buy into driverless cars. Nearly two-thirds of consumers (63%) fear that with their vehicle connected to the outside world, someone could hack in to their car and risk their personal safety.
Mike Woodward, UK automotive leader at Deloitte, said: ‘Unsurprisingly, consumers are most interested in technologies that will ensure their personal safety and have little interest in paying more for convenience features which they expect to be included as part of the base cost.
‘As self-driving technology becomes a reality, automakers will need to demonstrate their commitment to vehicle safety. While seven in ten of consumers still don’t consider fully self-driving cars to be safe, two thirds are willing to try them if they have an established safety record. To win their trust, car manufacturers should therefore prioritise developing and showcasing a good track record.’
If consumers were to jump on the driverless bandwagon then, in the UK at least, consumers would trust traditional car manufacturers the most. The UK was found to be one of only five markets that rate traditional car manufacturers as the most trusted (53%) to bring fully self-driving technology to market. However, challengers within the sector, such as new companies that specialise in autonomous vehicles and existing technology companies, are also increasingly gaining trust.
‘Traditional car manufacturers have a real opportunity to be at the forefront of self-driving technology in the UK. Consumers trust what they can see and it is important that automakers put themselves out there and run their own vehicle technology tests to keep their brand at the front of consumers’ minds,’ said Mike Woodward.
There is also good news for automakers to be found among younger consumers, who are more interested in limited and full self-driving than older generations. Younger consumers are willing to pay up to three times as much as older generations for some technologies – £809 compared to £231 for alternative engines, or £754 compared to £298 for full or partial self-driving.