Consumers Lack Confidence in Autonomous and BEV Tech

Most American car owners don’t trust autonomous vehicle features and remain skeptical about buying BEVs.

Those are the findings of the J.D. Power’s 2020 Q1 Mobility Confidence Index Study of nearly 9,000 respondents living in North America. Its index for self-driving vehicles decreases for the first time to 35 from 36 on its 100-point scale for US consumers as a whole but also to 36 from 39 for Canadian consumers. For BEVs, the index remains at 55 in the US for the fourth consecutive quarter, while decreasing to 57 from 59 in Canada.

Consumers don’t believe the self-driving technology, and society itself, is ready for mass adoption. Technology failure or error remains the top concern in both countries, with Canadians being even more worried about it  at 75% compared with 67% in the US. Canada’s climate and mountainous terrain present a significant challenge as one consumer said of self-driving technology. American and Canadian consumers also are worried about the law of unintended consequences that will come about as a result of self-driving vehicles. Concerns about creating a lazy society dependent on technology and with diminished driving skills is a heightened concern.

Concerning BEVs, 70% of American respondents have never been in a BEV and 30% say they know nothing about them. Canadians are only slightly more experienced with 67% having never been in one but are more knowledgeable, with 19% saying they know nothing about them.

Also previous ownership doesn’t guarantee future purchases because, while 29% of American consumers and 31% of Canadian consumers express some likelihood to purchase an EV in the next four years, almost the same amount have no intention to purchase one. Some who have previously owned a BEV but won’t buy again owing to high maintenance costs, purchase price, limited range and performance in extreme weather. One consumer noted, “Absolute hoax, does not provide enough heat to clear windows in cold weather. Car is cold to ride in the winter.” Obstacles to BEV take-up remain the biggest problem with inadequate charging infrastructure, driving range and purchase price as the top three barriers to owning BEVs as perceived by American and Canadian consumers today.

Summing up, Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface research at J.D. Power, said: “Frankly, we’re concerned for automakers. They’re pushing forward with technology that consumers seem to have little interest in. Nor are they making the strides needed to change people’s minds. Especially now, automakers need to reevaluate where they’re spending money. They are investing billions in these technologies but they need to also invest in educating consumers. Lack of knowledge is a huge roadblock for future adoption.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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