AV Tech Viewed with More Skepticism, Deloitte Study Finds

Consumer trust in autonomous vehicles appears to be stalling in several countries around the globe, according to a global automotive study conducted by Deloitte and released in the same week that is seeing some major AV announcements at CES 2019.

The 2019 Global Automotive Consumer Study examined consumer attitudes toward AV technology across the world, including six major global markets considered key to autonomous growth: the US, China, India, Canada, Germany and South Korea.

The report found trust in AVs plateauing in several markets, with the share of consumers in China, Japan and South Korea who believe self-driving cars will not be safe falling modestly.

However, the survey showed distrust in autonomous vehicles is growing among consumers in India and Germany.

The report, which was based on more than 25,000 respondents in 20 countries, noted a series of high-profile incidents could have contributed to the plateauing of consumer trust in this year’s study.

Nearly two-thirds of consumers in South Korea, the US, India and China reported that media stories of accidents involving AVs have made them more cautious of the technology.

Overall, the report’s authors remained optimistic that there would likely be a longer-term trend toward gradual acceptance of self-driving vehicles.

The study also looked at the future for electric vehicles. In the US, results were mixed, with the report noting EV adoption is lagging due to a low-fuel-price environment and relaxed emissions standards.

China, on the other hand, is strengthening its policy ecosystem to drive EV growth to address domestic pollution concerns and reduce its reliance on imported oil.

The survey also indicated belief in traditional auto manufacturers’ ability to bring self-driving vehicle technologies to market is also falling.

The number of respondents who trust traditional OEMs to bring AV technology to market dropped to 39% among US respondents, slipping from 47% in 2018.

That downward track proved consistent across the world’s major markets.

“While consumers may not immediately associate traditional auto manufacturers with advanced technology just yet, these companies bring a lot of experience to the mix, including a strong history of product development and robust vehicle safety testing and validation,” report co-author Joe Vitale explained via email to TU-Automotive.

Vitale said given intense consumer focus on the safety of autonomous vehicles, these companies have an opportunity to take the lead in building credibility and trust in these technologies.

In the US, the percentage of respondents who believe AVs will be not be safe remained relatively flat at 50%, compared with 47% in the company’s 2018 study after significantly dropping from 74% in 2017.

The 2019 number hovers at around 50% in most developed countries.

The report follows a November study by auto supplier Continental, which found Germans are growing increasingly wary of autonomous vehicle technology.

The Deloitte report also found that heading into 2019, only 12% of US consumers use ride-hailing at least once a week, while those who use it occasionally reached 46%.

This is compared with 23% who used it at least once a week and 22% who used it “occasionally” two years ago.

The report also revealed the majority — 56% — of US consumers are not interested in ride-sharing services like professional micro-buses and other similar multi-rider options, while 47% of German consumers prefer to use their vehicles daily.

Using multiple modes of transportation in one trip is largely an occasional undertaking in the US, where 39% of US consumers report they never combine different modes in a single trip.

When it comes to connected vehicles, roughly two-thirds (63%) of US consumers are concerned about biometric data being captured and shared with external parties.

Data safety and cybersecurity are likely to receive closer looks both within and outside the automotive industry, especially as vehicles move towards greater autonomy and connectivity.

The billion-dollar question is who will own and safeguard the data? The increased connectivity and complexity in modern vehicles is resulting in new risks and threats to personal safety, security and privacy.

“Part of what may be driving concerns about vehicle connectivity is the increasing number and type of sensors to track everything from powertrain performance and operational statistics to geo-location information and occupant wellness,” the report noted.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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