2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study: Consumers Fear Technology Failures with Autonomous Vehicles
Excepting only Gen Y (those born 1977-1994), all other generational groups have grown more skeptical of self-driving car technology, according to the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study.SM This could pose a new challenge to car manufacturers and technology developers.
Compared with 2016, 11% more Gen Z consumers (those born 1995-2004) and 9% more Pre-Boomers (born before 1946) say they “definitely would not” trust automated technology. However, as reported in the 2016 study, six of the top 10 features that consumers were most interested in before learning the price of a vehicle—smart headlights, camera rearview mirror, emergency braking and steering system, lane-change assist, camera side-view mirrors, and advanced windshield display—relate to collision protection and driving-assistance technology.
“In most cases, as technology concepts get closer to becoming reality, consumer curiosity and acceptance increase,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and HMI research at J.D. Power. “With autonomous vehicles, we see a pattern where trust drives interest in the technology and right now, the level of trust is declining.
“Along with collision mitigation, there are many benefits to autonomous vehicles, including allowing those who are unable to drive in today’s vehicles to experience freedom of mobility. Interestingly, though, 40% of Boomers do not see any benefits to self-driving vehicles. Automated driving is a new and complex concept for many consumers; they’ll have to experience it firsthand to fully understand it. As features like adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, and blind-spot warning systems become mainstream, car buyers will gain more confidence in taking their hands off the steering wheel and allowing their vehicles to step in to prevent human error.”
Key Findings Show Generation Gap
Gen Z consumers are far more comfortable than older consumers with technologies that assume control of vehicle operating functions, according to the study. Examples include allowing mobile devices to take control of infotainment systems; an in-vehicle artificial intelligence (AI)-based assistant; and autonomous driving and parking technologies. For all five of the technologies with the largest purchase-intent gap, the gap between Gen Y and Gen Z purchase intent is greater than the gap between Gen Z and Boomers, who say they definitely/probably are interested in a feature even before they know the price.
Gen Z has the highest interest in all alternative mobility types, including 50% indicating they are definitely/probably interested in mobility sharing/co-ownership, in which vehicle ownership expenses and usage are shared within a group of people with the goal of optimizing expenses and utilization. Journey-based ownership—flexible-use vehicle fleet ownership based on the user’s needs at a fixed price—is favored by 52% of this age group. Unmanned mobility, where the vehicle drives on its own to predetermined destinations, is favored by 56%, as is mobility-on-demand: ride-sharing via a mobile app request. Journey-based ownership—flexible-use vehicle fleet ownership based on the user’s needs at a fixed price—is favored by 52%.
Upcoming agreements between automakers and the government will require vehicles to have emergency braking—a foundation technology for autonomous driving—as a standard feature within five years. The 31% of consumers willing to pay $700 for the advanced version of this system (which adds steering) is greater than the percentage of consumers who would pay for less expensive technologies like digital key ($250), dash camera ($300), and mobile system control ($400).
‘Niche Technologies’ Find Less Favor
Consumers aren’t as enthusiastic about niche convenience technologies. Features in the entertainment/connectivity and comfort/convenience categories show the lowest pre-price interest. Gen Z consumers have a fairly high interest in digital key technology, which replaces a physical key or key fob with a smartphone or smartwatch. A total of 40% of Gen Z consumers indicate they definitely would like digital key technology on their next vehicle, and 58% are willing to pay $250 for it, compared with 28% of all consumers.
Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:
- Read reports on the reliability of the latest automotive technology, especially those related to automated driving.
- Find out how these technologies are evolving, and how future iterations of the technology might differ from what’s available today.
- Determine whether you really want or need a technology now, or whether it would be better to wait for the next generation before paying for it. Test it as thoroughly as you can when shopping for a new vehicle.
About the Study
The U.S. Tech Choice Study, now in its third year, examines consumer awareness, interest, and price elasticity of various future and emerging technologies by vehicle make and consumer demographic. The major technology categories analyzed in the study are entertainment and connectivity; comfort and convenience; driving assistance; collision protection; navigation; and energy efficiency. Consumer interest in emerging concepts such as alternative mobility solutions, cybersecurity threats, and trust in automated technologies also was explored.
The study was fielded in January-February 2017 and is based on an online survey of more than 8,500 consumers who purchased/leased a new vehicle in the past five years.