23
Aug

An Autonomous Future: How the Role of the Consumer Will Impact AV Development

An Autonomous Future: How the Role of the Consumer Will Impact AV Development

For automobile manufacturers, a bold new future has arrived. Technology that adds autonomous features to the driving experience are now available on vehicles by all major manufacturers – inching us ever closer to the day where the driver is a passive, rather than active, participant in the driving experience. To take a closer look at what’s to come, automotive research experts from Market Strategies-Morpace will share their insights in an occasional blog series titled “An Autonomous Future.” In this blog, Chris Leiman, Senior Vice President of Automotive at Market Strategies-Morpace, talks about how consumers are influencing the adoption of these autonomous features.

By: Chris Leiman, Senior Vice President, Automotive

 

When most consumers envision an autonomous vehicle (AV), they think of Tesla Autopilot or a Waymo self-driving car powered by Google. They often do not realize that their brand-new car, truck, or SUV already includes added safety features that already make the automobile more autonomous in nature.

Take the Toyota Highlander, for example. This popular sport utility vehicle is equipped with helpful lane departure warnings, along with a feature that pulls drivers back into their current lane with the power of radar. As soon as the driver begins to traverse against lines on the road, the vehicle ensures he or she tracks back safely.

While these features serve as a subtle introduction to the benefits of AV technology, it’s hard for consumers to escape news of incidents involving self-driving vehicles. From grisly reports of accidents with General Motors’ AVs last fall, to the frightening media headlines warning of robotic systems that decide who dies in a crash, AV developers must constantly walk a thin tightrope.

While pushing the technology forward will allow more people and businesses to benefit from it, factors like societal fears and negative media coverage will also continue to shape the outcome and pace of the industry.

As an automotive researcher at Market StrategiesMorpace, my role is centered on the continuous quest to understand consumers and the decisions they make. It’s one of the primary reasons why I have the opportunity to attend the Autonomous Vehicle Conference, an informative and annual event including speakers from all parts of the AV ecosystem.

Through my work at the company and my insights from this conference, I’ve learned much about the potential impact – and role – the consumer will play in the future of self-driving cars. Here are a few of the main and immediate factors influencing the automotive vehicle industry:


Top Consumer Factors Influencing Autonomous Vehicle Development


Media Coverage of the AV Market

Media Coverage of the AV Market Autonomous vehicle technology bears a variety of safety and mobility benefits, including quick transport and automatic driver assistance features. However, consumer acceptance is still a significant barrier to overcome. This is primarily influenced by the media, which focuses on AV accidents and death without detailing the daily triumphs in the industry.

News programming giants have a saying: “If it bleeds, it leads.” While reporting on a pedestrian being killed by a self-driving car, they leave out comparative data, such as the fact that more than 6,000 walkers and bikers were killed by human drivers in 2017. As fatalities rise, autonomous safety features could help reduce these rates.

This is a primary example of how the AV industry must do a better job managing its own narrative. A combined effort by all members of the AV ecosystem will likely be required to change the tone and provide perspective.


Driver/Rider Exposure to ADAS Features

Driver/Rider Exposure to ADAS Features with AVIn addition to better management of news coverage, exposure to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) features is a critical stepping stone to further consumer acceptance. These include characteristics that are already commonplace in many newer vehicle models, including adaptive cruise control (ACC), adaptive light control, automatic parking, and blind spot monitors. The proliferation of these features, combined with proper messaging and education, will go a long way in developing consumer trust.

One strategy is to gradually expose passengers to the features. Consider the example given by a Lyft representative who spoke at the Autonomous Vehicle Conference. She explained how a self-driving BMW transporting 2018 Consumer Electronics Show attendees included a Lyft employee and a safety driver. Since these two human beings were also in the car, people felt safer. However, the vehicle still completely drove itself.

This speaks to a gradual adoption approach. Once consumers get more exposure to the technology, it will reduce and, presumably, eliminate their anxiety. By safely riding with Lyft employees through multiple rides, for example, the technology will become as familiar as riding in a taxi or regular ride sharing vehicle.

Early technology adopters such as Tesla Autopilot drivers, as well as those eager to try out self-driving cars, will help the industry to convince skeptics over time. Eventually, experts say, benefits like time and convenience will continue to develop within the technology, making them more apparent to the average consumer.


Consumer-Centered Business Models

Consumer-Centered Business Models with AVWe are already witnessing the emergence of various business models in the auto industry. How drivers and riders accept these models will also affect the future development and dispersal of the technology. While companies like Tesla continue to push the self-owned AV, enterprises like Uber and Lyft currently operate with the help of freelance drivers, who are responsible for their own cars.

To become and remain profitable, they will need to develop a viable autonomous vehicle strategy, which could affect their freelance driving program. In addition, the new technology may or may not be acceptable to the consumer. It is possible that the widespread adoption of these brands in their current form will help pave the way for consumers’ autonomous mobility options in the future.

In addition to the ride sharing model, fleets are another option. From ambulances and school buses to programs comparable to Lyft and Uber, maintaining a group of company-owned cars would save money while providing consumers with a seamless experience.

Finally, startups and blue-chip businesses alike will need to focus on the quality of customer experience. From vehicle choices to entertainment options, the enjoyment of the autonomous ride will become nearly as important to the future of the industry as safety benefits.


Ushering Consumers into the AV Revolution

Ushering Consumers into the AV Revolution I’m proud to work for a company like Market Strategies-Morpace that helps AV enterprises use research to support their value proposition. In short, we’ve found that acclimating consumers to self-driving technology while changing the prevailing mindset around AV depends on the in-vehicle experience, how often and how safely they use those cars, and their willingness to pay for the features and services, whether it is their own car or via a pay-per-ride service. Marketing will play a key role for all brands. AV organizations will need to clearly communicate safety benefits and value to their customers to charge for services in the end.

In considering the consumer’s impact on acceptability, I’m reminded of a recent Car and Driver article by illustrious author Malcolm Gladwell. In the piece, he writes about the phenomenon of consumer control. In our society, our ability to choose our vehicle and drive it where we want is a part of the American fabric.

Whether it’s a man who won’t part with his 1968 Corvette or a young mother who doesn’t trust her children to an autonomous vehicle, giving up control of the driving experience will take some time. By staying diligent with market research, gaining better control of the media narrative, and clearly explaining the lifestyle and safety benefits of self-driving cars, the consumer will become more comfortable with – and enthusiastic about – what AVs can do for their lives.

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16
Aug

An Autonomous Future: Consumer Awareness & Opinion about the Emergence of AV

An Autonomous Future: Consumer Awareness & Opinion about the Emergence of AV

For automobile manufacturers, a bold new future has arrived. Technology that adds autonomous features to the driving experience are now available on vehicles by all major manufacturers – inching us ever closer to the day where the driver is a passive, rather than active, participant in the driving experience. To take a closer look at what’s to come, automotive research experts at Market Strategies-Morpace will share their insights in an occasional blog series titled “An Autonomous Future.” In this first blog, we hear from Dania Rich-Spencer, Vice President of Automotive at Market Strategies-Morpace, about how consumers are responding to these new autonomous enhancements.

By: Dania Rich-Spencer, Vice President, Automotive

 

When Chairman and CEO of General Motors Mary Barra wrote an article for the World Economic Forum in 2016, she stated “I believe the auto industry will change more in the next five to 10 years than it has in the last 50.” Given vehicle companies’ quest to transition from a car maker to a valued mobility company offering services that many of us couldn’t even imagine a few years ago, Barra is spot on about the swift transformation of the auto industry.

While automotive manufacturers have historically described themselves as makers of vehicles for personal and commercial use, today’s OEMs refer to their brands as mobility companies. Yes, they still make cars, trucks, and SUVs – but a combination of new connectivity technology and consumers’ willingness to share products and services now enable auto manufacturers to redefine their relationship with customers – and to enhance the vehicle ownership experience.


A Glimpse into Industry Innovation by Today’s Leading OEMs

A Glimpse into Industry Innovation & AV by Today’s Leading OEMs A variety of popular car makers are investing considerable time, money, technology, and talent to make vast transitions within the marketplace. For instance, the General Motors Marketplace app is considered the “automotive industry’s first commerce platform for on-demand reservations and purchases of goods and services.”

Ford positions FordPass as “the app that amplifies your ownership experience…all to help you get from A to B better.”  Lincoln is redefining the traditional lease with a month-to-month subscription service to better meet customers’ needs and attract younger buyers. Cadillac, Volvo, and Porsche are also offering services to complement the traditional car buying/servicing transactional model.

One may argue that the greatest contribution to this transformation is the development of autonomous vehicles (AVs).  While timelines for fully-developed AVs vary by OEM, there is no doubt they are coming.  It reminds me of the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “…but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” Today, self-driving vehicles are also part of the inevitable! In fact, Mcity Driverless Shuttle, “the first driverless shuttle project in the U.S. focusing on user behavior research” was launched beginning June 2018, on the University of Michigan’s North Campus.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to be a part of this automotive industry transformation and look forward to reminiscing with the grandkids about a world before the car was a powerful computing platform that drove itself. However, I often wonder: do other people see this industry transformation in the same light as I do? How does the “regular Joe” feel about the emergence of self-driving vehicles?

Based on my experience as both a vehicle consumer and professional at Market StrategiesMorpace, I know that familiarity drives acceptance of new technology. With that said, how familiar is the general population with AV technology – and how might they see themselves benefiting from these cars?


Insights into Consumer Awareness & Opinion of Autonomous Vehicles Today

Insights into Consumer Awareness & Opinion of Autonomous Vehicles Today To find out, these are some of the questions we explored in the Morpace Automotive Consumer Pulse Study, an online survey* conducted monthly among approximately 1,000 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older.  We noted several surprising findings, including feedback about the level of awareness for self-driving vehicles:

  • Over eight in ten consumers have heard at least some information about companies working on developing self-driving vehicles. This statistic has remained fairly consistent since October 2017, when the study was initially conducted. It is also consistent with other research.
  • While the general public is aware of autonomous vehicles, there is a lot of uncertainty about the implications of self-driving vehicles. People are not sure if there will be more or fewer accidents and fatalities, whether there will be more or fewer vehicles on the road, or if personal ownership will increase or decline.
  • When asked how the development of self-driving vehicles will benefit them personally, responses are almost equally distributed in thirds across “Positive/Negative/Not Sure.”

Since factors like media coverage and clear, enthusiastic, consumer-based marketing affect the current and future awareness of self-driving automobiles, the interplay between these two factors will shape the short-term pace and long-term outcome of the industry.


Demographic Differences in Consumer Awareness

Demographic Differences in Consumer Awareness of Autonomous VehiclesOne aspect is for sure, however – young adults, followed by those with disabilities and those who have lost their license, will be the first to use a self-driving vehicle. In addition, more males than females are engaged with this topic and are more likely to embrace using a self-driving vehicle. Other data shows:

  • Twice as many males compared to females say that they have seen or heard “a lot” about cars and trucks that can operate on their own without a human driver.
  • Almost half of males think self-driving vehicles are positive for them, compared to just under a third of females.
  • Compared to females, almost twice as many males provide a Top2Box rating (9/10) to being open to using a self-driving vehicle.

This gender difference is not surprising to me, but I’m wondering if auto manufacturers are paying attention to the information. Is it too early to charm females to autonomous vehicles?  Given that women influence a significant portion of the vehicle purchase decision, it may be prudent for OEMs to start the marketing process now by crafting a message targeted to women around the positive implications and personal benefits of using and owning an AV.


A Future with Self-Driving Cars

The industry and its consumers are also interested to know which auto maker may be the first to offer a fully autonomous vehicle for personal use. Toyota takes top spot, followed closely by Ford. Similar to their marketing of apps and subscription services, trusted vehicle makers like these must make the benefits of AVs clear to both male and female consumers, as well as those young and old. These include the benefits of Advanced Drive Assistance Systems (ADAS) features, as well as how their self-driving business models will make operating these vehicles both safe and beneficial to daily life.

While OEMs and their partners evolve their marketing strategies, I am optimistic about the future of transportation and the role the autonomous vehicle plays. Here’s to the next few years of unprecedented change – and the wonder it will bring!

 

*The data collected by the Morpace Automotive Consumer Pulse Study are weighted to ensure relevant demographic characteristics of the sample matched those of the U.S. general population.  All respondents are weighted to U.S. Census Bureau demographic profiles for the U.S. population 18+ on gender, age, income and ethnicity.

 

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18
Jul

Consumer Impact on the Future of Smart Devices

By: Greg Swando, Sr. Director of Client Services, & Richard Clarke, VP Global Partnerships, Vision Critical

 

Are you ready for an experiment? Spend some time watching commercials during primetime TV, or while waiting to board your flight at the airport. In a matter of minutes, you will notice an ever-increasing number of impressive and exciting ads touting smart Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Whether it’s a lonely grandmother connecting with her far-away family, thanks to Alexa and the Amazon Echo Spot, or a busy father scouting Greek food locations with his LG OLED TV with Google Assistant, IoT devices are the present and future answer to consolidating seemingly endless daily tasks and helping consumers connect with family.

Rapid developments are present everywhere we turn. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) featured a Smart Home Marketplace more advanced – and promising – than ever before. In addition to efficient and connection-based clocks and televisions, trusted brands like Kohler, Whirlpool, and Honeywell are showcasing retail innovations promising to make homes safer, healthier, and more comfortable.

Whether it’s a refrigerator reminding you that your apples and oranges are about to rot – or a connected dishwasher that starts rinsing your dirty china with a simple voice command – appliances and entertainment technology are joining the ranks of smart automobiles and security systems to become the assistants families and professionals didn’t know they needed.

In fact, a recent feature story in Forbes magazine spotlighted how the aforementioned “Alexa” of Amazon fame is now the latest virtual butler to cater to guests staying at Marriott-branded hotels.

“Customers tell us they love how easy it is to get information, enjoy entertainment and control connected devices by simply asking Alexa,” explained Amazon VP Daniel Rausch in the Forbes feature. “We want to offer those experiences everywhere customers want them.”

Consider how the world recently became captivated by the news that the Google Virtual Assistant had used an eerily human sounding voice (replete with “ums” and “ahhs”) to book a hair appointment by phone. Clearly, our ability to engage in multiple tasks at one time – while enjoying the experience – is advancing at a rapid pace that both shocks and delights the American and global consumer base.

From predictive data collection to nearly overnight developments in natural language processing, consumer-oriented brands in all industries are eager to capitalize off the many benefits these devices provide. While the technology is undoubtedly thrilling, the key for commercial enterprises is ensuring their customers understand it, then accept it as quickly as possible.

Top Factors Driving Smart IoT Devices & Consumer Adoption

To obtain wide acceptance, it is up to various industries, from automotive to healthcare to retail, to convince the public that these products are not only beneficial, but necessary. One of the easiest arguments to make to consumers is that it helps them save time while delivering a needed boost in a world of instant gratification. Though companies are finding ways to benefit on their end of the IoT paradigm, what will they need to overcome consumer resistance to giving up a modicum of privacy and control in order to foster wider adoption of the technologies?

     1. Consumer Brand Loyalty  

In a society dominated by brand loyalty, consumers want to know the trusted entities behind the technology – and these savvy virtual assistants. For example, Marriott’s Guestroom Innovation Lab collaborates with Samsung and Legrand to optimize their stay experience. As a result of this technology partnership, guests will interact with Bixby and store much of their data in the ARTIK platform and SmartThings cloud. Put simply, they must like and trust these brands to want to use them. This phenomenon extends across industries.

A family’s smart thermostat may be powered by Alexa, for example – but there still are a limited number of tasks the assistant can handle. If they do not enjoy using Alexa, their continued adoption of similar technology may dwindle. By the same regard, some products will be powered by Apple, while others will run on Google technology. Whether it is the voice assistant drivers used in their Toyota – or the underlying technology which powers the commands to control kitchen appliances, for example  – helping consumers define the relationship between the perks of their devices and who drives them is key.

While it is possible enterprises will be overthinking consumer loyalty to Apple, Microsoft, or another entity, it will behoove them to help their buyers understand who is owning and collecting their data – and how it helps them to achieve their goals and complete daily tasks. In turn, the organizations creating the technology will benefit by hashing out how their devices and clouds interconnect.

     2. Privacy Concerns and the Race for Data Collection

As alluded to previously, the battle is on for the ownership and collection of data by technology companies. The more information businesses have about people using smart IoT devices, the more they will be able to enhance consumer experience and dominate their marketplace. Like-minded, competitive organizations will not be sharing consumer data, so building trust matters.  Autonomous vehicle manufacturers, smart television makers, and blue-chip appliance giants can be sure that their customers haven’t yet forgotten about the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal – or the almost regular notices they receive about their data being included in a restaurant or bank data breach. It is how they handle consumer perception that will drive future adoption.

There are also concerns about IoT smart device spying – and the potential security risks that come with billions of cars, appliances, and entertainment products being connected by the year 2020. With this discussion, however, comes promise – the global market will grow to up to $475 billion by then – a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of a whopping 28.5 percent.

     3. Consumer Budgets, Product Lifecycles, and Device Efficiency

If you have ever had to argue with Siri to get an answer to a simple question, you know the first-hand limitations of smart tech. At a minimum, all devices need to learn from Google Virtual Assistant’s example — concisely understanding what the consumer is saying and using it to complete myriad tasks. Businesses will have to grapple with people who don’t want to adopt new or difficult technology, so ease of use is essential.

These factors intersect with consumer budget. When weighing benefits of smart IoT devices vs. price, difficulty or affordability of adoption may affect the speed at which the industry evolves. For example, a millennial who recently bought a 2016 KIA Soul has some voice capability in their car, but not the newest technology. While they may think new IoT innovations are neat, they are not going to necessarily invest in a new car until they finish making payments. At the point they buy a brand new vehicle, they will upgrade to the latest technology – and then learn how to use it. Many companies at CES argued about the impact price point will have in the speed of adoption – it will be less painful for consumers to buy a smart dishwasher or clock versus a $30,000 vehicle.

     4. Global Adoption of Smart IoT

While it is relatively simple to predict the future of the smart IoT device industry in the fast-paced, instantly gratified United States, it is additionally important for large organizations to consider how the rest of the world deploys and utilizes the technology. While Apple, Google, and Amazon are among the most trusted and used brands in America, Asian and European consumers prefer South Korea’s Samsung and other local companies while Apple’s popularity declines in large markets like China.

Since there are various technological and societal dynamics across the world, companies interested in capitalizing off smart IoT devices must complete their due diligence via extensive and relevant research to understand the various marketplaces in which they compete.

     5. Growing Consumer Industries by Leveraging the Benefits of IoT

Advancements in IoT devices are undoubtedly useful and exciting to both customers and consumer-based industries. However, it is up to the organizations creating innovative products to transform their knowledge about clients’ emotions, needs, and wants into a trust-building engagement strategy.

Automotive companies, for example, must learn how to balance headlines about self-driving car fatalities with public knowledge about the prevalence and usefulness of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), while large home appliance leaders should leverage data to overcome consumers’ inner battle between cost, budget, and benefit.  No matter how advanced a TV or sedan becomes, consumer attitude will drive adoption. These organizations should focus on ways to engage their customer base to add context and establish the “why” factor in using their products.

It is the everyday mission of Market Strategies International-Morpace to assist companies in understanding these nuances through research about consumer habits to support the value proposition of their devices. The companies who currently make IoT devices are primarily focused on technological advancement and product features but ignore customer perception at their own peril. If enterprises can turn consumer data and sentiment into a strategy that delivers on promises of better efficiency and improved connectivity, the increase in global smart IoT will be coupled with a sentiment that consumers cannot live without it. The drive of habit change is trust – and research to inform development, implementation, and marketing strategies will bridge the gap.

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