Study shows consumers not ready for self-driving or electric vehicles

August 26, 2019

Tyson Fisher


People still do not trust self-driving vehicles, according to a recent study conducted by J.D. Power. Confidence in electric vehicles is better, but not by much.

J.D. Power, a company specializing in consumer insights, recently released its inaugural Mobility Confidence Index Study. On a scale of 1-100, consumers ranked their confidence in self-driving vehicles at 36, with battery-electric vehicles receiving a Mobility Confidence Index of 55. According to a news release, J.D. Power plans to release an updated version of the study quarterly.

According to J.D. Power, a score of 0-40 is considered low sentiment, 41-60 neutral and 61-100 a positive outlook.

Among the self-driving subcategories surveyed, the lowest scoring were comfort in riding in a self-driving vehicles (34) and comfort being on the road with others in a self-driving vehicle (35). Nearly three-quarters of those polled are worried about tech failures and errors. More than half are concerned about the risk of being hacked and legal liability in the event of a crash.

The study was released several weeks before a video showing a driver of a Tesla asleep while moving at highway speeds on Interstate 5 in California went viral. Several similar videos have surfaced over the past several years:

Fully self-driving vehicles have yet to hit the market. Currently, cars such as Tesla’s Model 3 and Model S are Level 2 technology on the Society of Automotive Engineers’ automation levels scale. Complete, hands-off-wheel automation does not kick in until Level 4, which no manufacturer has produced for the consumer market.

According to J.D. Power’s report, exports expect self-driving services like public transit and deliveries to hit the market in five or six years. That timeline is moved up to 12 years in regards to self-driving vehicles available for purchase. Industry experts predict it will be at least 15 years for self-driving vehicles have a 10% retail market share.

However, that timeline may not sit well for many. Of the nearly 6,000 consumers polled, 39% are not excited about self-driving technology in general, including delivery services, public transit, taxi/ride-hailing services and personal vehicles. On the other hand, 65% said they are hopeful about the overall benefit of technology in their lives.

There was a stark difference of opinion when it comes to age. Younger generations are more confident that safety will improves, whereas nearly half of baby boomers reported they believe safety will be worse than today. Younger respondents also reported having greater knowledge of self-driving technology, compared to their older counterparts.

“Out of the box, these scores are not encouraging,” said Kristin Kolodge in a statement, executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface research at J.D. Power.

“As automakers head down the developmental road to self-driving vehicles and greater electrification, it’s important to know if consumers are on the same road—and headed in the same direction. That doesn’t seem to be the case right now. Manufacturers need to learn where consumers are in terms of comprehending and accepting new mobility technologies—and what needs to be done.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently accepting comments for its autonomous vehicle rulemaking until Aug. 28.

Electric vehicles
Regarding electric vehicles, confidence was higher but still relatively low. Battery-electric vehicles scored a Mobility Confidence Index of 55. Only 39% said they were likely to purchase an electric car. Less than half are concerned about the reliability of electric vehicles compared with gas-powered vehicles. However, most consumers believe electric vehicles have a positive effect on the environment.

Consumers also are worried about the costs, believing electric vehicles may be beyond their budget. Additionally, many are concerned about the infrastructure, or the lack thereof. More specifically, consumers are worried about the cost of batteries, the range and supply capacity. More than two-thirds are concerned about the availability of charging stations

High expectations are also driving consumer confidence. More than three-fourths expect a driving range of 300 miles or more. Another three-quarters of those surveyed will only wait 30 minutes or less to charge a vehicles to travel about 200 miles.

When it comes to electric vehicles, consumers and industry experts to agree on at least one aspect: timing. Consumers and experts alike believe that it will be well over a decade before electric vehicles equal gas-powered vehicles in terms of sales volume.