Consumers are warming up to the concept of fully self-driving vehicles, but some roadblocks may lay ahead for automakers, according to the 2018 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study.
Consumers have a brighter outlook on the safety of autonomous vehicles, though concerns remain. Significantly fewer people in the 2018 study feel that autonomous cars will not be safe, with less than half (47 percent) of US consumers holding this view — a dramatic decrease from 2017, when 74 percent felt autonomous vehicles would not be safe.
This view is consistent with other countries covered in the study, including: South Korea (54 percent this year vs. 81 percent last year), Germany (45 percent vs. 72 percent), and France (37 percent vs. 65 percent) who feel driverless cars may not be safe. The most notable change comes from China, where the percentage of people who think autonomous cars will not be safe dropped from 62 percent in 2017 to only 26 percent in this year's study.
"Overall acceptance of autonomous technology has grown rapidly in just a short time," said Craig Giffi, Vice Chairman, Deloitte LLP, and US automotive leader. "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. Those who settle for a reactive mindset rather than preparing for the long term will be at greater risk as consumer acceptance for autonomous technology further accelerates."
Many people agree they would trust autonomous vehicles with a proven track record for safety. Almost three-quarters (71 percent) of US respondents said they would be more likely to ride in an autonomous vehicle if they had an established safety record, up just slightly from 68 percent in the 2017 study. Other markets appear to be accelerating, however, with 83 percent of South Korean consumers (up from 70 percent in 2017), and 63 percent of German consumers (up from 47 percent in 2017) holding the same view.
Taking that a step farther, more consumers are turning to trusted brands for reassurance around the safety of autonomous technologies. Nearly two-thirds of US consumers (63 percent) 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. Consumers' faith in brands appears to strengthen with younger consumers, as 70 percent of the Gen Y/Z population reported they would be more likely to accept a self-driving vehicle from a trusted brand, compared to 62 percent of Gen X and 56 percent of Boomer/Pre-Boomer consumers. "The auto industry battle between brands for consumers' trust is on in a new and heightened way," said Giffi.
In most regions, consumers favor traditional car manufacturers to bring fully autonomous vehicles to market. In the U.S., nearly half of consumers (47 percent) would put their trust in a traditional car manufacturer, compared to roughly one-quarter each that would trust a technology company (25 percent) or a new-to-market autonomous vehicle maker (28 percent). Consumers across Asia hold widely different views: In Japan, 76 percent trust a traditional car manufacturer to bring the technology to market, compared with 28 percent in China and 13 percent of consumers in Southeast Asia.
Not completely trusting the industry, many consumers would put their trust in federal regulation. More than half of US consumers (54 percent) reported they would feel better about riding in self-driving cars if governments would implement standards and regulations.