Consumers still confused about self-driving cars

19 January 2017 - 10:41 By AFP Relaxnews

A global study from Deloitte taking in the opinions of 22,000 consumers in 17 different countries finds that although attitudes to autonomous vehicles are becoming more positive, the majority of consumers need evidence that these technological advances will lead to safer cars.

Whether in Germany, Korea, India, China, the US or Japan, a lack of trust was the number-one answer when consumers were asked about whether they'd consider a self-driving car.

In South Korea, 81% of respondents said that they had safety concerns, followed by Japanese (79%) and German consumers (72%). Even in the US where real-world testing of autonomous cars is a reality in a number of states, 74% feel that self-driving cars won't be safe.

However, 68% of Americans said they'd change their opinion once such cars have proven they're safe, and 54% said they'd travel in an autonomous car if it had been built by a brand they trust.

"Automakers and technology companies first have to earn consumers' trust, then turn that trust into a willingness to pay for a must-have feature," said Craig Giffi, vice chairman and US automotive industry leader, Deloitte LLP, and co-author of the report. "Today trust is lacking. Ironically, fully autonomous vehicles are being engineered to be much safer than today's vehicles."

And it could prove especially challenging for the US automotive industry to gain this trust. Deloitte found just 47% of US consumers trust carmakers to deliver an autonomous car (compared with 51% in Germany and 76% of Japanese respondents) but it's worse still for tech companies.

Google may have taken an early lead in the race to develop a truly self-driving car, or at least the technology underpinning them, but only 20% of Americans said that they would trust a car from an established Silicon Valley company.

The report comes as a number of carmakers, from Honda and Toyota to Volvo, have reiterated that despite the rapid pace of technological development, they haven't lost sight of the fact cars are first and foremost built for people.

"The important question isn't whether future vehicles will be equipped with automated or connected technologies," said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota during his CES presentation. "It is the experience of the people who engage with those vehicles."