7
Nov

An Autonomous Future – Electric Vehicle Driver Opinion on Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous connected electric vehicles


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, Stephan Schroeder, Vice President of Automotive Business Development at Market Strategies-Morpace, shares insights about how electric and hybrid vehicle drivers view the advantages and disadvantages of autonomous vehicles.

By: Stephan Schroeder, Vice President of Business Development, Automotive

The prospect of autonomous driving and connected mobility has energized the automotive industry and spurred billions of dollars of investments in autonomy, connectivity, and electrification. While startups and blue-chip corporations alike are convinced about the potential of autonomous vehicles (AV), consumers are more incredulous.

As previously reported in our An Autonomous Future series (Consumer Awareness & Opinion and The Role of the Consumer), media coverage has and will play a critical role in creating driver and rider awareness for AVs, but it is also becoming clear that the transition to this new form of mobility will require a multifaceted approach and unprecedented levels of investment in order to earn their trust.

One group that appears to be further along in their favorable opinion towards autonomous driving are drivers of electric vehicles. In a recent Morpace MyDrivingPower* online survey conducted among over 100 electric vehicle drivers, 3 out of 4 respondents expressed a “very positive” or “somewhat positive” opinion about AVs, more than twice the rate reported by drivers of vehicles with traditional powertrains. Given that difference in favorable opinions and their unique vantage point as early adopters, we took a closer look at the pros and cons of autonomous driving from their perspective.

 

Electric Vehicle Drivers’ Worry Revolves Around AV Tech-Related Challenges

Maybe not surprisingly, the biggest concern has to do with the technology itself. Concerns range from the quality of programming and the risk of being hacked to the inability of drivers to “program” the cars correctly.

And herein lies maybe the biggest challenge for AVs. We all have, over decades, become used to the limits of technology and the fact that it is not fail safe. However, we have accepted this risk because either our lives don’t depend on it (i.e. cell phones, computers, etc.) or because we have experts standing by to jump in if necessary (i.e. pilots, doctors, etc.). When a simple system reboot does not suffice or experts are not physically available, we dial help lines and call upon customer support to aid in our problems.

However, when it comes to AVs: what would happen in the event of an emergency or failure? The thought of being stranded with your family by the roadside and having to navigate through a helpdesk menu or wait hours for a call back is not something that would be acceptable in an autonomous world. Overcoming the doubts about the reliability of the technology and providing a highly responsive, end-user support system will be the two biggest hurdles that mobility providers will have to overcome to gain broad acceptance among consumers.

The next largest challenge has to do with concerns regarding vehicle performance due to bad weather conditions. Additional performance-related comments had to do with poor road conditions or construction. Of course, there is also the question of performance in more demanding environments, such as off-roading, which interestingly enough leads to a related disadvantage mentioned in another category: the thought of having to give up driving and losing the joy of driving a car. Many drivers are not happy about the thought of losing their freedom to drive or the ability to drive themselves.

While less frequent, concerns about liability and data privacy are also weighing heavy on the minds of consumers. Both of these issues tie back to our experience with technology. Who will be responsible in the event of an accident? What damages will be covered and not covered? Who will be responsible for the condition of the vehicle, especially if it is being shared amongst multiple parties? Ironically, some respondents felt that there would actually be more accidents because they did not trust their fellow drivers to behave responsibly or manage the technology properly.

The fear of lack of data privacy points to another significant concern with AVs. Considering the amount of time we spend in our cars and the amount of interaction that will take place through text, voice, video, sensing, etc., AVs will take the question of data privacy to a whole new level. Morpace is planning to explore this and other issues related to the question of trust and autonomous mobility further in one of its upcoming studies.

 

Electric Vehicle Drivers’ Opinion of AV Advantages

When asked about the expected advantages of AVs, electric vehicle drivers have a wide range of expectations, from safety to cost and environmental issues.

Most notably, electric vehicle drivers expect fewer accidents due to a reduction in distractions or unsafe driving. Furthermore, they expect lower cost of insurance, which could be a function of less accidents but also a lower rate of car ownership.

While many also expect less traffic and lower emissions, the verdict for a majority of people is still out, which shows the uncertainty around certain benefits:

  • Will AV lead to less or more cars on the road?
  • Which powertrain technology will prevail?
  • What will be the mix of autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles?

While many people believe that there will be efficiencies due to the use of autonomous vehicles (i.e. faster commutes), it could be offset by higher traffic volumes or the expectation that “the slowest car will dictate speed on the road.”

Finally, electric vehicle drivers pointed out two more major advantages. First, they noted that AVs will provide options for people who either can’t drive due to age, health, income or legal reasons – or who simply don’t want to drive. Secondly, many consumers mentioned that they expect a reduction in stress and greater happiness, which will contribute to a better quality of life and increased productiveness. The luxury of permanently “being taxied by your own car,” as one responded put it, seems to be a very appealing benefit for many drivers.

As a result, when asked how likely they would consider riding in an AV, 72% of electric vehicle drivers said that they would be “very likely “or “somewhat likely” to do so.

 

Time Spent While Driving in AV

For those with the most positive opinion of AVs, what else do they think and feel? When asked what they would do during the drive, the majority of drivers said they would use it to socialize with others, inside or outside of the vehicle, or simply make good use of the time otherwise. That said, many of the comments also revealed the anxiety that electric vehicle drivers feel when it comes to technology. Their comments ranged from “nervously watch the traffic/road,” to “carefully monitor the technology” and “pay full attention to driving and be completely ready to take over controls.”  In other words, while many drivers dream of a more enjoyable and fun ride, they simply can’t imagine a vehicle performing 100% of their activities 100% of the time with 0% failure yet.

 

AV Price Points for Electric Vehicle Driver

So, given all of the pros and cons, how much more would electric vehicle drivers be willing to spend for a vehicle that has autonomous technology?

On average, electric vehicle drivers indicated that they would be willing to pay an additional $6,000, with answers ranging from $1000 at the low end to $10,000 at the upper end.

The bottom-line is that the automotive industry has the attention of electric vehicle drivers and they are willing to pay for the added value. That said, the expectations are high and there is a healthy level of skepticism about the ability of making the technology work. The promise of a better quality of life is a huge opportunity for everyone involved but it will most likely come in baby steps as we learn to feel our way around the new world of unlimited mobility for everyone.

For more information about our AV research or if you have questions, please contact me and visit morpace.com.

 

*MyDrivingPower is an Insight Community comprised of over 500 electric and hybrid vehicle owners across the U.S., which is managed by the automotive market research professionals at Morpace. Results are based on responses from BEV and PHEV vehicles owners only.

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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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