Just How Excited Are Consumers About Autonomous Cars?

 

Automobile and technology companies are proceeding full-speed ahead into autonomous vehicles. And regulators are actually moving pretty fast, too. But what about consumers? What do they want? And what are they willing to pay for? To find out Bain & Co. surveyed a bunch of them in different countries:

And from the report:

About 80% of buyers said they were likely to use assistive features. Only about half of buyers expressed interest in using vehicles that are fully autonomous today, even though two-thirds agreed that autonomous vehicles represented the future of driving. … Drivers named safer driving and lower fuel and insurance costs as the leading benefits from these technologies. However, their enthusiasm is tempered by concerns about high costs and the reliability of the technology, including its vulnerability to being hacked. Liability issues were also a concern.

Our research, which examined the trade-offs buyers were willing to make between different features of a car, showed that customers were not willing to spend much more on advanced ADAS features (including fully autonomous highway driving) than they spend today on basic ADAS features like adaptive cruise control. Thus automakers and suppliers have their work cut out for them: Not only do they have to deliver the technology leaps to meet increasing customer expectation regarding both the capability and reliability of these systems, but they will also have to do so at costs that match those of today’s assistive features.

So not surprising: Safety is a key concern. But if those concerns are met, will consumers be more enthusiastic and be willing to spend much more? I think it is hard to know, especially since the mental model is “advanced car” rather than “a different mode of transportation.” I mean, the automobile wasn’t just a much improved version of the horse and carriage, and thus “horseless carriage” was a descriptor that mislead rather than enlightened. As Andreessen Horowitz analyst Ben Evans recently said on EconTalk:

So, Level 5 is the point where you are confident that you can take the steering wheel out of the vehicle, and that you can potentially drive–for example, you can design a commercial vehicle without a human cabinet at all. Now, I think the interesting thing, as you move along that progression, is that a Level 2, Level 3, is basically a safer car but it’s still a car. Level 4, Level 5, you use the term ‘self-driving cars.’ I prefer the term ‘autonomous.’ And the reason I don’t like the term ‘self-driving car’ is that’s very like saying ‘horseless carriage.’ That, you remove the horse from the carriage–and if you look at early automobiles, early vehicles from the early 20th century, they’ve taken the horse off, but it’s still a carriage. … And in the same way, you remove the person, but it’s still a car. Well, that’s not how it works. And, you know, removing the gas tank just as electric isn’t about removing the gas tank, autonomy isn’t about actually about the car driving itself. It’s about the you getting rid of the person. And it’s about changing everything else about that vehicle. And everything about the city around it. In much the same way that removing the horse wasn’t just about removing the–it changed everything else about vehicles and everything else about it.

There are 15 comments.

  1. Member

    I listened to this podcast and was impressed by the guy’s arrogance. Question? Why don’t we have autonomous trains? Seems like a simpler application that would go a ways in proving the concept.

    The promise of autonomous cars reminds me of atomic power that is so cheap, you won’t need to meter usage!

    I see lots of problems, but mostly the solutions consist of hand waving. I’m not a nonbeliever, just a skeptic.

    • #1
    • October 16, 2017 at 6:15 pm
    • 1 like
  2. Member

    I’m not too excited to put my life in the hands of a robot that may decide to sacrifice me based on a “greater good” algo in an impending crash.

    • #2
    • October 16, 2017 at 7:07 pm
    • 8 likes
  3. Member

    I like MY autonomy and want to keep it. Not hand it over to Big “It’s for Your Own Good”.

    • #3
    • October 16, 2017 at 7:54 pm
    • 4 likes
  4. Contributor

    In the end, they’ll be mandated for city driving. At least in Europe. It’ll be a way to control traffic and congestion. The state will tell you when you can use your car.

    This sounds like John-Bircher-paranoia from a Jack D. Ripper-type talking about POE, but I suspect that if you ask European city planners what they’d do with a critical mass of autonomous vehicles, that’s exactly what they’d say they want.

    • #4
    • October 16, 2017 at 8:37 pm
    • 8 likes
  5. Member

    I was cut-off on the freeway recently in Pittsburgh by an autonomous vehicle. Whatever else their virtues, flipping one off isn’t nearly as satisfying.

    • #5
    • October 17, 2017 at 12:19 am
    • 7 likes
  6. Member

    I would keep my car for 99% of my usage, but renting one for drinking nights would be appealing.

    • #6
    • October 17, 2017 at 2:49 am
    • 4 likes
  7. Inactive

    Liability? My guess is there be a product liability with the potential for contribution from the manufacturer to the defendant, or actually an indemnity of some kind.

    • #7
    • October 17, 2017 at 3:40 am
    • Like
  8. Inactive

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    In the end, they’ll be mandated for city driving. At least in Europe. It’ll be a way to control traffic and congestion. The state will tell you when you can use your car.

    This sounds like John-Bircher-paranoia from a Jack D. Ripper-type talking about POE, but I suspect that if you ask European city planners what they’d do with a critical mass of autonomous vehicles, that’s exactly what they’d say they want.

    This is my number one fear. Unfortunately liberty is held at such a cheap level in our collective lives nobody wants to hear about restriction of movement.

    • #8
    • October 17, 2017 at 3:42 am
    • 2 likes
  9. Member

    I’m intrigued by the idea of autonomous cars, if it was something I could turn on and off at will. However, there are too many control-freaks out there who are salivating over the technology as another means to exert their will over the masses. Could you imagine the havoc that Silicon Valley could have caused in the last election if they could control where people could go? First bring me the heads of the meliorists, then we’ll talk about driverless cars.

    • #9
    • October 17, 2017 at 5:18 am
    • 2 likes
  10. Member

    My issue with autonomous cars is that I get car sick. That problem hasn’t lessened over the years, it’s increased. I rarely even ride front passenger anymore. Unless they come up with good matching medication to help with that, I strenuously object to getting sick every time I want to go somewhere. But even fixing that, unless you always have the option to manually drive, I object because I like driving.

    • #10
    • October 17, 2017 at 8:58 am
    • Like
  11. Member

    Qoumidan (View Comment):
    My issue with autonomous cars is that I get car sick. That problem hasn’t lessened over the years, it’s increased. I rarely even ride front passenger anymore. Unless they come up with good matching medication to help with that, I strenuously object to getting sick every time I want to go somewhere. But even fixing that, unless you always have the option to manually drive, I object because I like driving.

    Try a compounded pharmacy transdermal scopolamine cream. Not the patch unless no other options

    • #11
    • October 17, 2017 at 9:15 am
    • 1 like
  12. Member

    As to the future, it can happen without me.

    • #12
    • October 17, 2017 at 9:16 am
    • 4 likes
  13. Member

    DocJay (View Comment):
    As to the future, it can happen without me.

    I think there’s only one way for that to happen, Doc, and most of us aren’t in favor of that option.

    • #13
    • October 17, 2017 at 4:59 pm
    • Like
  14. Member

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    DocJay (View Comment):
    As to the future, it can happen without me.

    I think there’s only one way for that to happen, Doc, and most of us aren’t in favor of that option.

    Somewhat inevitable, though. I am already surprised to still be here.

    • #14
    • October 18, 2017 at 6:31 am
    • Like
  15. Coolidge

    This is one of those few times when I might just be ahead of the curve.

    Consider: Why does a rail line have more carrying capacity than a four-lane highway? Because the “carriages” are coupled together; thus the safety interval between “vehicles” means huge numbers of unit-goods per interval, even with human operators, even before radio communication or electric signalling. (Answer to above question about trains needing operators: They don’t. AFAIK BART (San Francisco) never had them.)

    This means several interlocking events — A pool of self-driving vehicles can approach railroad density because all the vehicles know what each other are doing. Even one non-autonomous vehicle in the mix and this is no longer true. And so, given a critical mass of autonomous vehicles, no others will be permitted in high-density areas, perhaps at first in segregated lanes or on segregated roads. No Big Brother required, though it sure does give him opportunities…

    At this point, it becomes what Uber and Lyft were supposed to be: a reason why the city folk don’t need cars any more; you don’t take the car to pick designer baby up at pre-school, you hire a vehicle to to the job.. Another wedge between the cityites and us rubes, though the difference might be that us rubes need to send our own autonomous vehicle because lower population densities might not support a fleet operated by Somebody Else. (Though if the battery breakthrough occurs EV reliability and low maintenance would significantly lower that bar.)

    Free add-on: It won’t be the government that decides when this is real; it’ll be the insurance companies. And you’ll notice that it won’t be a car anymore.

    • #15
    • October 18, 2017 at 3:15 pm
    • Like