The auto shows this month may have been nothing short of a driverless-tech wonderland, but carmakers have to participate in trust falls with consumers, or some sort of icebreaker, if they’re serious about bringing about an autonomous revolution: The findings from a new Deloitte study suggest nearly 75 percent of the U.S. doesn’t believe self-driving cars will be safe. Damn.
The study surveyed 22,000 consumers from 17 countries on self-driving cars, powertrain systems and their willingness to spend for the high-tech gadgetry, but the biggest takeaway was the level of trust in AV technology.
The results left Deloitte’s Craig Giffi, who co-authored the report, with an unnerving conclusion for the auto industry.
“Automakers are under significant pressure to invest more heavily and place bigger bets with less certain returns than we have seen in this industry in several generations,” Giffi said in a statement.
Every country surveyed had a majority of respondents stating they had safety concerns about fully autonomous vehicles, with China at the lowest (62 percent) to South Korea (81 percent). In the U.S., three quarters of consumers believe the vehicles won’t be safe to drive, according to the findings.
That’s not to say things can’t change. Over half of U.S. drivers said in the study they would ride an autonomous vehicle from a band they trust, while 68 percent said they’d change their opinion once AVs have a proven track record. Figures like that make 2017 plans like Tesla’s goal to send an AV from Los Angeles to NYC all the more important for automakers with self-driving ambitions.
If consumers trust companies like Tesla, however, is another question. The study’s findings showed only 20 percent of U.S. drivers suggested they’d trust Silicon Valley firms to implement AV technology. It’s not much better for traditional automakers: only 47 percent trust them to bring a reliable AV to production.
The respondents for the study also indicated they’re relatively uninterested in alternative powertrains. Only 24 percent in the U.S. suggested they’d be interested, instead preferring other options like a hybrid-electric or battery-electric setup.
What’s the solution? It’s hard to say. Automakers have beat the AV drum relentlessly in recent months, touting the benefits the technology could bring. But without trust from consumers, the prospect of significant sales of AV vehicles — if and when they come — would seem difficult to achieve.