Shaky Consumer Confidence in Self-Driving Vehicles
December 05, 2019

Pete Goldin

Consumers lack confidence in the future of self-driving vehicles, according to the J.D. Power 2019 Mobility Confidence Index Study fueled by SurveyMonkey. The Mobility Confidence Index is 36 (on a 100-point scale) for self-driving vehicles, according to Q2 and Q3 studies, each surveying more than 5,000 consumers.

“Out of the box, these scores are not encouraging,” said Kristin Kolodge, Executive Director, Driver Interaction & Human Machine Interface Research at J.D. Power. “As automakers head down the developmental road to self-driving vehicles and greater electrification, it’s important to know if consumers are on the same road — and headed in the same direction. That doesn’t seem to be the case right now. Manufacturers need to learn where consumers are in terms of comprehending and accepting new mobility technologies — and what needs to be done.”

Following are key findings about self-driving vehicles:

Mobility Confidence Index

Mobility Confidence Index is 36 for self-driving vehicles: With an overall score of 36, consumers have a low level of confidence about the future of self-driving vehicles.

Scoring lowest among the self-driving attributes are: comfort about riding in a self-driving vehicle (34); and comfort about being on the road with others in a self-driving vehicle (35).

Self-driving challenges

Industry experts say that perfecting self-driving technology is more challenging than originally thought. They also recognize the importance of marketing self-driving technology to consumers to build understanding, trust and acceptance, which is notably an industry-wide challenge.

Disparate visions for availability

Experts anticipate self-driving services — public transit, delivery and taxi/ride-hailing — will arrive to market in 5-6 years while self-driving vehicles for purchase will arrive in about 12 years. Consumers predict each mobility option will be available in closer to 10 years. Most industry experts forecast it will be 15 or more years before self-driving vehicles have a retail market share of 10%.

Top concerns

Although consumers are more hopeful than worried (65% vs. 34%) about the overall benefit of technology in their lives, 39% aren’t excited about any self-driving technology, including delivery services, public transit, taxi/ride-hailing service and personal vehicles.

Serious concerns exist with the development of self-driving vehicles, of which consumers are most worried about tech failures/errors (71%); risk of vehicle being hacked (57%); and legal liability as a result of a collision (55%).

One consumer said, “History has shown that past technological advances, such as electrical or computer, fail with time and are too costly to repair.”

Others voiced concerns about job losses: “It’s going to put a LOT of people out of jobs and cause a lot of economic repercussions.”

Consumers lack knowledge

Consumers still lack knowledge about self-driving vehicles. More than two-thirds (68%) of consumers say they have little to no knowledge about self-driving vehicle technology and well over half say they are unlikely to ever purchase or lease a self-driving vehicle.

Gen Z1 expresses the most knowledge, while Boomers express the least.

Nearly three-fourths (71%) of consumers are more likely to purchase or lease a self-driving vehicle if they have a great deal of knowledge, but consideration dips to 25% for those who state they know nothing at all about them.

Men vs. Women

Men more comfortable with self-driving technology than women. Only half as many women express having a “great deal” or “fair amount” of knowledge on the subject compared with men and they’re also less likely than men to purchase or lease a self-driving vehicle.

Only half as many women say they are comfortable with each self-driving scenario studied: being on the road with others using self-driving vehicles; riding in self-driving vehicles; self-driving public transit; and goods being transported in self-driving commercial vehicles.

Safety perceptions

Safety perceptions differ with age, knowledge. Overall, consumers are split on whether self-driving vehicles will improve traffic safety (40% better vs. 40% worse). Younger generations are more confident that safety will improve (52% of Gen Z, 45% of Gen Y), but 49% of Boomers think it will be worse than today.

Consumers who say they know a great deal or a fair amount about self-driving vehicles believe such vehicles will improve traffic safety (59% and 52%, respectively).