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.
“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.
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.
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).
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.