Continental CEO Says Consumer Losing Confidence in Driverless Tech

Auto supply giant Continental believes the auto industry has an uphill struggle to offset a slump in consumer confidence over autonomous technology.

One of the findings of its 2018 Mobility Study highlighted that 77% of respondents globally were now unsure of the technology’s reliability following incidents including the killing of a pedestrian wheeling a bicycle by an Uber operated driverless vehicle in Phoenix, Arizona. This compares to 66% in a similar study conducted in 2013, Continental’s CEO Dr Elmar Degenhart told journalists during a roundtable interview at the North American International Auto Show 2019. He said: “We have to bring automated driving technologies in a reliable, robust way to the streets. If we are doing this too fast, we will be doing nobody a favor. That’s because the majority of drivers would have huge concerns with regards to potential incidents of the future, it would be even more difficult to convince them that they are wrong.”

He stressed the importance of taking incremental steps to give consumers the chance to assess each new development for themselves before advancing to the next step. He explained: “The starting point that we have been doing for some years now, is to make drivers and consumers familiar with assisted driver technologies so that they can gain trust. Then we can enhance simple functions to a point where the drivers will perceive that they are getting support from the technology in critical driving environments like construction, for example, where drivers can be made to feel less confident where lanes are reduced in width. So we have to work with suppliers, car manufacturers and also the authorities to allow the industry to take steps in the right sequence and in the right timeframe.”

He said this approach has been successful in the field of car connectivity where consumers are very much enamored of the technology. Degenhart said: “We know that people can appreciate enhanced connectivity, functionality and applications that are to the benefit of the driver then we find the majority of drivers are very open for these especially if these are safety functions which they are happy to pay something extra for them.

“As an example from our survey we know that 74% of drivers in the US would accept a black box that collects data to use to investigate in the case of an accident which is a very high acceptance rate.”

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


3 comments

  1. Avatar Justin Bazalgette 23rd January 2019 @ 11:49 am

    Interesting to hear that consumers are losing confidence. The problem appears to be that consumers are expecting perfection from driverless technology whereas they are happy to accept that the risk to road users of driver technology is much higher. The news seems to be focused on every negative incident, rather than a comparison with existing driving statistics and how much better the driverless technology is – whilst not being perfect!

  2. TU-Editor TU-Editor 23rd January 2019 @ 12:05 pm

    I think the issue revolves around who is doing the killing. Most accept that humans are fallible and their mistakes, as individuals, are issues that will not, necessarily, be replicated by other humans. Conversely, a mistake by a robot presupposes it’s a technical glitch that could be shared by countless other robots – a more worrying scenario for some observers.

  3. Avatar Pat Duggan 27th January 2019 @ 12:50 pm

    While I do believe we are a long way from driverless cars (can’t wait to see two driverless cars trade insurance information), I absolutely applaud the ongoing migration of autonomous safety features that are migrating into passenger driven cars. As just one example, the simultaneous lane change to the middle lane from a car in the far left and far right lanes, was always a difficult accident to avoid. Current research is learning more as autonomous features encounter different unanticipated road conditions. Someday it will be ready but, for now, there are already tremendous benefits.

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