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Even connected car owners have doubts about autonomous vehicles

Wednesday, April 25, 2018 - 07:00
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Despite being early tech adopters, drivers of connected cars are not keen on making the shift to self-driving cars, according to a new survey from connected vehicle data technology specialist Solace. More than half (57 percent) said they would not buy a self-driving car regardless of cost. 

“It seems every day there is a new story around a connected car development, or about how another major tech company is testing autonomous vehicle features. But it’s surprising to see that even with all these industry investments, consumers are still overall untrusting of ‘smart’ cars,” says Cameron Conaway, Director of Marketing Communications at Solace. “While it’s often assumed that the biggest barrier to adoption of autonomous vehicles is pricing, this survey data shows us that distrust of these cars is actually the leading factor.” 

The survey, conducted  between January 17 and 19, 2018, polled U.S. online consumers who identified as connected car drivers. 

Surprisingly, younger connected vehicle drivers were more skeptical of the technology than older drivers. Nearly half (46 percent) of respondents between ages of 18 and 25 would not trust their car to automatically react to driving conditions. Just one-third of drivers 65 or older held the same opinion. Exactly why that is was not clear from the research. 

“It’s speculation at this point, to be honest, but it could be because this particular age group is newer behind the wheel and therefore isn’t ready to give up the control they’re just getting the hang of,” Conaway says. “Or it could even be that they’re perhaps more in-tune to how far the technologies still have to come. Whatever the reason, our survey shot down the notion that millennials are ready to blindly adopt this new experience.” 

Respondents were particularly dubious of the safety of autonomous vehicles. Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of drivers believe they drive safer in connected cars, but would not trust a self-driving vehicle to make certain decisions. For example, 40 percent noted they wouldn't trust their car to brake for them.  

According to Conaway, OEMs will have to better educate the public using data on safety testing in order to overcome some of these fears. 

“Just five years ago, consumers were untrusting of safety features like back-up cameras or blind spot sensors — but car companies were relentless in proving that these technology features were critical to improving safety on the roads,” Conaway says. “That’s what this will take. And it’s not enough for car companies and the technology providers they work with to shout about cool new features; they must obsessively test and showcase why those new features create both easier and safer driving experiences.” 

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