Consumers Will Pay For Autonomous Safety, Kia Says

Motorists are already being conditioned to accept the expected driverless technology by current ADAS being employed in vehicles.

That’s the view of Michael Cole, chief operating officer and executive president of Kia Motors America, who sees the advance of the technologies persuading consumers to acclimatize themselves with new auto innovations. Speaking exclusively to TU-Automotive at the NAIAS 2019, Cole said: “I think we start this by what we do in our vehicles today such as the kind of advanced driver assist features we have. Even for myself, I used to be quite skeptical about this but once you start to use this technology and realize just how useful it can be, your opinion does change.”

Cole, a Brit who now lives in the US, said his own personal driving experiences has proved the power of the current ADAS technology even when it’s not as astute as the driver. He explained: “Just the other day I was driving through the town where I live and I saw a truck turning right. Judging my speed and the speed of its maneuver, I knew it would have been clear of my path before I arrived at the junction. So, I didn’t use the brakes but the car’s technology assumed I hadn’t seen the obstacle and suddenly the brakes were on. While, at first, I thought this was annoying because I didn’t need to stop, yet the car was doing its job in the event that I hadn’t been paying attention. It’s things like this that show the usefulness of the technology and the gradual acceptance of it will come as people get used to the technology.”

He added that technology can also be a great asset for drivers getting to grips with differing driving cultures in different countries. “It’s things like rear cross-traffic alert and lane assist, which I find more useful in the US than in Europe because cars are allowed to over-take on both sides. If you said to me five years ago that I’d want these functions, I’d have said ‘Oh no, I don’t need that’. Now, however, I really like the technology because I use it all the time. This is the evolution of the experience where people will say: ‘This is useful’.”

Naturally, technology costs and, with sensor prices including the expensive LiDAR scanners still amounting to a high level of the vehicles’ cost, automakers will be concerned over how much people would be willing to pay in future. However, Cole does not see this as being a major issue on the road to autonomy. He explained: “In some of the consumer clinics we’ve held when you go through the top things people want, safety is pretty high up there. So, the trade-off is what are they willing to pay for this technology? Generally, we find, they are prepared to pay for those technologies when they are reasonably priced.”

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

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