Study: U.S. trust in autonomous vehicles spikes upward


Despite the safety and price concerns many U.S. consumers still have regarding autonomous vehicles, this year, far fewer people feel that autonomous cars will not be safe, according to the 2018 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study.

The study found that only 47 percent of U.S. consumers view autonomous cars as unsafe, compared to 74 percent of consumers last year.

“Overall acceptance of autonomous technology has grown rapidly in just a short time,” Deloitte vice chairman Craig Giffi said in a news release.

“However, driverless cars are still in an experimental stage, and the industry is at the front-end of a long capital investment cycle required to bring autonomous vehicle technology to the mainstream market. To complicate that cycle, automakers recognize an immediate need to invest in areas including electrified powertrains, advanced light-weight materials, connectivity and mobility services. While the returns will be farther out, it's important that automakers continue allocating resources to autonomous driving technology,” he explained.

With safety being a top concern among drivers, 71 percent of U.S. respondents said they would be more likely to ride in an autonomous vehicle if a safety record has been established, according to the study.

The study also took a look at other countries, including Asia and Europe, and found that  views on the safety of autonomous vehicles in China has changed the most. In this year's study, the percentage of people in the country who think autonomous cars will not be safe dropped from 62 percent in last year to just 26 percent.

When it comes to brand loyalty, it plays a vital role as well. According to the study, 63 percent of consumers report they would be more likely to ride in an autonomous vehicle if it was from a brand they trust, compared to 54 percent in 2017.

While nearly half of consumers (47 percent) said they would trust a traditional car manufacturer, compared to only 25 percent who say they would put their trust in a technology company and 28 percent who said the same regarding new-to-market autonomous carmakers.

Additionally, the study found that the youngest consumers are the most comfortable with autonomous vechiles if they are produced by a brand they trust. Seventy percent of the Gen Y/Z population reported they would be more likely to accept an autonomous vehicle from a brand they trust, compared to 62 percent of Gen X and only 56 percent of Boomer/Pre-Boomer consumers.

Lastly, when asked about the price tag of an autonomous vehicle, the study found that some consumers are not willing to pay much more for an autonomous vehicle option. Thirty-four percent of respondents are unwilling to pay extra money, according to the study.

“The economics of electric vehicles compared to traditional powertrains are presently not favorable enough for either consumers or automotive companies," added Joe Vitale of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. “However, two significant trends could move us closer to the tipping point: battery cost reduction and government regulation. The trend toward mandating electrified powertrains — not merely demanding increased fuel efficiency or better carbon footprints, especially in Europe and China — lays out a 'must-do' path for global car makers. Also, as automakers simultaneously begin to broadly partner on building out the electric charging infrastructure and developing other value-added services that increase the convenience factor for consumers, electric vehicles can become a desirable alternative for most consumers.”

More than half (54 percent) of U.S. consumers said implemented standards and regulations enforced by governments would make them feel better about riding in an autonomous vehicle.

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