brauer karl

In the race for self-driving cars, building consumer trust when it comes to safety is just as important as building the technology, according to research by Cox Automotive.

Findings from its 2018 Evolution of Mobility Study: Autonomous Vehicles, show consumer awareness of driverless vehicles has rocketed and the desire for autonomous features is high.

However, the survey found 84% of those polled want to have the option to drive themselves, even in a self-driving vehicle, compared to 16% who would feel comfortable letting an autonomous vehicle drive them without the option of being able to take control.

The number of respondents that believe roadways would be safer if all vehicles were fully autonomous versus operated by people has decreased 18 percentage points in just two years.

Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book (pictured above), said: “As awareness around the development of autonomous technology increases, we’re seeing some dramatic shifts in consumer sentiment.

“People now have a deeper understanding of the complexities involved when creating a self-driving car, and that has them reconsidering their comfort level when it comes to handing over control.”

Self-driving vehicles are seen as less safe by consumers compared to two years ago, with the vehicle autonomy preference shifting from Level 4 to Level 2 – the level currently available in most new vehicles.

The Society of Automotive Engineers currently recognizes five levels of vehicle autonomy, ranging from Level 0 (human-only control) to Level 5 (no human control).

In a similar 2016 study from Kelley Blue Book, when survey respondents were asked to make a choice between the different levels, Level 4 autonomy hit the “sweet spot” by providing all the benefits of full vehicle autonomy without stripping away the option of driver control.

Now attitudes around self-driving technology have reversed with nearly half of consumers saying they would never buy a Level 5 vehicle (49%, up from 30% in 2016).

Recent high-profile accidents involving autonomous vehicles have cast a shadow on driverless appeal and software, but they may only be slightly to blame for a change in consumer sentiment, Cox Automotive found.

Those unaware of the autonomous incidents, including a self-driving fatality in March 2018, are just as likely as those aware of the incident to believe roadways would be safer if all vehicles were operated by people as opposed to autonomous vehicles (54% versus 55%, respectively).

Three-quarters of consumers say fully autonomous vehicles need real world testing to be perfected, but 54% prefer this testing to ntake place in a different town or city from where they live.

Despite some negative media coverage, consumers want, and expect, semi-autonomous features, particularly those centered around safety, signaling a disconnect between consumer perception of safety tech features versus fully autonomous vehicles. In fact, 54% of respondents agree that semi-autonomous features make people better drivers. Collision warning alert system and collision avoidance system are top-ranked features considered a must-have in the next vehicle purchase/lease.

Joe George, Cox Automotive Mobility Solutions Group president, said: “There is a major opportunity, and a real need, for automakers and mobility providers to help educate consumers and further guide autonomous vehicles in their development.

“Autonomous safety feature adoption will be critical in creating future autonomous technology advocates.”