Where’s the Fun in Driving an Automated Vehicle?

January 10, 2018

By 
Dr. Tanja Schweiger

Each day, every European country gets a little closer to monumental societal change.

That change will come in the shape of automated vehicles; vehicles that will fulfill anywhere from a little to all of the driving responsibilities. The technology is further along than most people realize but a key question lingers: Do consumers want a car that doesn’t have to be driven? 

Great engineering minds are working to develop automated vehicle technology, but can consumers make advances in their own minds to keep pace with the new technology? Are they ready to trust new technology to take them from point A to point B without holding the steering wheel and operating the pedals?

Results of a recent J.D. Power study in Germany are providing some early insight. Three-fourths of respondents have little or no trust in self-driving technology at all. A similar J.D. Power study in the United States shows similar results, with 68% of respondents not trusting the fully automated technology. Chinese customers, on the other hand, seem to be one step ahead in their psychological acceptance with only 23% still having doubts about using an automated vehicle.

While a comparison of the international results shows the major concern in all three markets is possible technology failures/error, there is a big difference among the markets. While 31% of Germans fear technology problems, 50% of Americans and 53% of Chinese share this concern. It seems that German customers have higher trust in car producers than American and Chinese consumers, but where is the German distrust coming from?

What is your largest concern about automated vehicles?

The concern about legal liability in case of a collision is notable. The concern is shared by 19% of respondents who, because of a lack of regulations, feel unsure about committing to owning or operating an automated vehicle. The issue appears somewhat universal as 18% of Chinese and 13% of American respondents share the same concern.

While 8% of American consumers and 3% of Chinese consumers indicate their biggest concern with automated vehicles is giving up the fun of driving, a significant number of German consumers—17%--gave a similar response. Without a doubt, these individuals represent the biggest challenge for the manufacturers of automated vehicles.

Yes, there is a long way to go before a vehicle without a driver becomes a part of our daily lives. But how good is the technology if the consumer is not accepting of it? It seems like that manufacturers will have to spend as much time and effort on educating and persuading consumers to use automated vehicles as on the technology that will operate those vehicles.

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Dr. Tanja Schweiger is research manager at J.D. Power.  She lives in Munich and belongs to one fourth of Germans that already trust self-driving technology and can’t wait for fully automated vehicles to populate car dealerships and roads.

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