Auto shows around the world are prominently displaying the industry’s progress toward EVs, AVs, and connected cars. But are buyers ready to get onside with this fundamental technology shift?
From September to October 2018, Deloitte surveyed more than 25,000 consumers in 20 countries to explore opinions regarding a variety of critical issues impacting the automotive sector, including the development of advanced technologies.
Traffic safety is a major concern everywhere, as more than a million people die of traffic violence every year. It is hoped and predicted that autonomous driving will cut down on that grim statistic, but fear of new technology is slowing down public acceptance despite the tragic status quo. And overheated mass-media reports over normal, predictable bumps in the developmental road are probably aggravating public skepticism and depressing consumer confidence and interest in AVs. Excepting China, about 50% of respondents think AVs are unsafe. Even though that percentage has dropped—it was around 70% in 2017—it has increased a few points since last year. The situation is different in China, though, where only 25% have a negative opinion of AVs. That’s drastically reduced from 2017 when the Chinese sentient was also at around 70% against. Clearly, emotions and fears still have a lot of power to slow down the deployment of autonomous vehicles.
The Deloitte survey reveals that consumers say media reports of incidents and accidents involving automated driving have made them more cautious of the technology. Just shortly ago on 27 August, for example, the Wall Street Journal reported that apparently automated cars sometimes auto-brake even when there is no risk present. It notes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received over 400 individual complaints over the past three years about this kind of behaviour from Nissan, Honda, Volkswagen, and other cars equipped with some form of automatic braking. That’s an example of why a majority of consumers want their governments to exert stringent oversight with regulations on the development and use of AVs. In another divergence, outside Japan about a third of respondents trust traditional automakers to bring these technologies safely and effectively to market. In Japan, that figure is 70%.
Connectivity already exists in many vehicles, for example via services offered in real time by navigation that interacts dynamically with traffic situations, or by emergency calls. It is being expanded by the upgrading of voice interaction or additional services such as access to parking or fuel prices displayed according to service station proximity. It will be extended by entertainment services such as video-on-demand or car-office work. But consumers may not be willing to pay for these kinds of connectivity. Consumer opinions are mixed; interest in time-saving (alternative route) and safety-related implementations (collision avoidance, safer route) is high, but significant concerns remain over privacy and data security. Automakers have a tough time getting people to pay for it; in Germany 43% say they’d take it at no cost and 40% say they might be willing to pay a little. It’s different in China and India, with around 50% ready to pay more than a little.
So the mobility revolution faces some fairly stiff headwinds, as consumer behavior, deeply ingrained by long habit, is proving resistant to change. Shared mobility may attract people, especially younger ones, but overall about half the surveyed population said they expect not to change how they interact with vehicular transport over the next three years. In that context, are Lyft and Uber and other such services sustainable, or will they prove to be just a fad? The answer isn’t necessarily obvious; surprisingly, regular use of ride-hailing services has decreased in the last two years all over the world. Use of multimodal mobility remains occasional, except in Asia where it accounts for 30% of trips taken.
At the same time, EVs have captured worldwide consumer interest. While 29 percent of US survey respondents would prefer a hybrid, battery, or other alternative to traditional fuel-burning drivetrains for their next vehicle—up from 20 percent last year—low fuel prices, relaxed emissions standards, fewer rebates, and higher prices due to the ongoing US trade war with China could slow EV adoption.
Overall, then, there is a major opportunity and a real need for automakers, suppliers, mobility providers, and regulatory authorities to help educate consumers and further develop acceptability of these technologies.