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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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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8
Oct

Morpace Omnibus Study: Vehicle Buying Remains King Among Consumers, While Leasing Lags

vehicle buyingIn 2014 more than 16.5 million new vehicles were sold in the U.S., the highest since 2006.

As statistics show, U.S. consumer-spending habits are increasing – a sign that the Great Recession of 2008 is finally behind us.

Last year also showed the highest rate of leasing in more than a decade, according to a recent New York Times article. It states that vehicle renting is experiencing a growth in popularity in a world where having monthly payments for everything is the new norm.

But according to a July Omnibus study conducted by Morpace, while leasing a vehicle is becoming more popular, U.S. consumers still prefer buying a new or used vehicle.

In a July 2014 study, out of 806 respondents, 46% planned to purchase a new vehicle, compared to 6.6% who planned to lease. Additionally, 45.9% planned to purchase a used vehicle, compared to only 1.5% who planned to lease.

And the figures barely budged in 2015.

Out of 889 respondents, 48.5% now plan to purchase a new vehicle, as opposed to 7% who will lease, according to our recent July Omnibus. And 42% plan to purchase a used vehicle, with only 2.6% planning to lease.

While vehicle leasing has a marginal increase from last year, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the hype that many media outlets are reporting.

Vehicle buying dominance may, surprisingly, come from none other than the Millennial generation. In a survey launched by Elite Daily in October of last year, nearly 71% of Generation Y would rather buy than lease a vehicle. Also in that same survey, 43% of Millennials say they plan to purchase a vehicle in the next five years.

Finally historical Omnibus data found that, out of 1,000 respondents in July of 2014, 45.9% plan to purchase or lease a vehicle in the next one to five years. That number only dropped .6%, to 45.3%, in July of this year (out of 1,004 respondents), suggesting that the vehicle market will remain in steady demand in years to come.

It remains to be seen whether leasing will increase in popularity in future years. But for now, buying new or used remains the popular choice in the automotive market today.

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