As the auto industry makes more advancements toward producing cars that can drive themselves, you would think consumers would support the concept more as they learn more about the technologies and how they can benefit their lives.
“That’s only true if everything goes to plan,” said Ryan Robinson, automotive research leader for Deloitte. “So we’re going to talk about some of the things that are causing the autonomous or the trend or trajectory of autonomous technology to kind of slow down.”
Robinson made those comments on July 23 in a presentation titled, “The Evolution of the Auto Consumer” at the Automotive Intelligence Summit in Raleigh, N.C.
His presentation covered areas such as autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, and the overall “burgeoning mobility revolution,” as he described it. But he started out by asking session attendees the question, “Is the future moving as fast as we think?”
Robinson is seeing a trend of consumers “pumping the brakes” on interest in autonomous vehicles. When he attends events such as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, he finds it “striking” how the conversation has changed in the area of determining a timeline for autonomous technology.
“Two years ago, it was, ‘Everything is here. Everything is around the corner. Buckle up, it’s going to change your life.’ Now, just this past January, it’s like, ‘Well I don’t know. Let’s slow down for a second.’” Robinson said.
However, he moved on to discuss electric vehicles and how they are “finally showing potential to scale.” Demand for those vehicles is growing in the Asia-Pacific and European Union regions because of those areas’ supportive environmental policies, “big bets” of some brands, and shifting consumer attitudes. In North America, however, low fuel prices are causing consumers to back away.
He also covered the “significant headwinds” that he feels the mobility revolution currently faces, stating that consumer behavior has been difficult to change. The future of shared mobility could depend on younger people who have embraced “a digitally enhanced existence.”
Autonomous vehicles and consumer perception
Robinson showed statistics from Deloitte stating that consumer perception regarding the safety of self-driving vehicles has slowed over the past year. Fifty percent of U.S. consumers surveyed believe autonomous vehicles will not be safe. Although that is higher than the 47% who believed that in a 2018 survey, it’s an improvement from 2017, when 74% said autonomous vehicles will not be safe.
But the trend holds compared to Japan, where 50% also say autonomous vehicles will not be safe. Forty-eight percent in India believe that, and 47% in Germany. Only 25% of those surveyed in China agree with that statement.
Reports of accidents involving autonomous vehicles is a main reason for the perception decline, he said. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed in the United States feel that media reports of accidents involving autonomous vehicles have made them more cautious of the technology. Sixty-four percent of respondents believe that in India and in China, 56% believe that in Germany, and 50% of respondents believe that in Japan.
Electrification: Starting to catch on?
“On the other hand, we think — and a lot of data is starting to bear this out — that depending on where you are around the world, electrification of the vehicle fleet is starting to catch hold,” Robinson said.
But that is not so much the case in the United States or even North America, he said.
“But if you look at markets like China, (there is) certainly a push to electrification for a variety of reasons, not least of which would be a central focus for the government in China to proactively put themselves in a leadership position for the next phase of global vehicle propulsion,” Robinson said.
But he said some consumers are still holding on to “increasingly outdated perceptions of EV limitations.” Those perceptions include range anxiety, price premiums, charging time, and lack of infrastructure. In a 2018 Deloitte study, 26% of U.S. respondents listed “cost/price premium” as their biggest concerns regarding all battery-powered vehicles.
Connected vehicles: Privacy a concern
“I guess it’s the conundrum that OEMs are facing at this point in time: If we’re starting to shift from the traditional business model of just bolting these things together and selling them to the end consumer, to something else, what is that something else?” Robinson said. “And we talk a lot about the idea of monetizing data,” he said.
He said “vast amounts” of data are already being collected from the vehicle itself and are being transmitted back to the OEMs and other stakeholders such as insurance companies, Robinson said.
“And let’s talk about it from a consumer perspective,” he said. “We know that there is a lot of concern over this like data privacy, data security. And personal safety falls into that camp when you talk about connected vehicles.”
Other stats, tidbits on auto consumer ‘evolution’
— In a 2018 Deloitte study, 64% of U.S. consumers agree with this statement: “With my vehicle connected via wireless internet, I fear someone hacking into my car and risking my personal safety.” In the same study, 47% of respondents agree that “as vehicles become more connected via wireless internet, they are more beneficial.”
— Thirty-one percent of respondents in a 2018 Deloitte study trust the car manufacturer the most to manage data generated or collected by their vehicle. Insurance company was next at 10%, vehicle dealer 9%, with smaller numbers trusting cloud service providers cellular service providers, and financial service providers. Thirty-one percent answered “none of the above.”
— Consumers only occasionally use multiple modes of transportation in the same trip, with 13% of U.S. respondents doing that one or more times per week. But that’s higher in other countries, with 32% of respondents in China using multiple modes in one trip one or more times per week, 28% in China and 26% in India.
— The U.S. consumer is becoming more willing to leave the traditional dealership experience behind. In answering the question, “How interested are consumers in bypassing the dealer?” 25% in 2019 said they were very interested, compared to 22% in 2018, according to Deloitte research. Thirty-four percent said they were somewhat interested, and 27% were “neutral.”
Robinson concluded in part by saying a longer timeline is necessary for autonomous vehicle adoption. Rather than making ambitious announcements of large-scale autonomous deployments, industry stakeholders are taking a more measured approach, acknowledging that all the pieces, such as regulatory framework and coordinated infrastructure, have yet to fall into place.