Canadian Underwriter

All generations in the United States except Millenials becoming more skeptical of self-driving technology: J.D. Power study

April 19, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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With the exception of Millenials, all other generational groups in the United States are becoming more skeptical of self-driving technology, posing a threat to car manufacturers and technology developers, a new study from J.D. Power has found.

The J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study, released on Tuesday, said that compared with 2016, 11% more Generation Z consumers (defined by J.D. Power as those born between 1995 and 2004) and 9% more Pre-Boomers (born between 1946) said that they “definitely would not” trust automated technology. Global market research company J.D. Power defines the other generations as Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976) and Millenials, or Generation Y, as those born between 1977 and 1994. The study is based on an online survey of more than 8,500 consumers in the U.S. who purchased or leased a new vehicle in the past five years.

Despite the findings related to lack of trust in automated technology, consumers this year showed “great interest” in collision protection and driving assistance technology, similar to the 2016 study, J.D. Power reported in a press release. Six of the top 10 features that consumers were most interest in before learning the price – smart headlights, camera rearview mirror, emergency braking and steering system, lane change assist, camera sideview mirrors and advanced windshield display – came from these categories, the report found.

“In most cases, as technology concepts get closer to becoming reality, consumer curiosity and acceptance increase,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface research at J.D. Power. “With autonomous vehicles, we see a pattern where trust drives interest in the technology and right now, the level of trust is declining.”

Kolodge added in the release that “along with collision mitigation, there are many benefits to autonomous vehicles, including allowing those who are unable to drive in today’s vehicles to experience freedom of mobility. Interestingly, though, 40% of Boomers do not see any benefits to self-driving vehicles,” Kolodge continued. “Automated driving is a new and complex concept for many consumers; they’ll have to experience it firsthand to fully understand it. As features like adaptive cruise control, automatic braking and blind spot warning systems become mainstream, car buyers will gain more confidence in taking their hands off the steering wheel and allowing their vehicles to step in to prevent human error.”

Additional findings of the 2017 study include:

  • Generation gap for vehicle-controlled functions – When looking at technologies with the largest purchase intent gaps between the Gen Y/Gen Z and Boomer generations, younger consumers are far more comfortable with technologies that assume control of vehicle operating functions. Examples include: allowing mobile devices to take control of infotainment systems, an in-vehicle artificial intelligence-based assistant and autonomous driving and parking technologies;
  • Mobility – Gen Z has the highest interest in all alternative mobility types, including 50% indicating that they are definitely or probably interested in mobility sharing or co-ownership (meaning vehicle ownership expenses and usage are shared within a group of people with the goal of optimizing expenses and utilization); 52% for journey-based ownership (flexible-use vehicle fleet ownership based on the user’s needs at a fixed price); 56% for unmanned mobility (vehicle drives on its own to predetermined destinations); and 56% for mobility-on-demand (ridesharing via a mobile app request, such as Uber and Lyft);
  • Consumer interest in emergency braking and steering system technology – Upcoming agreements between automakers and the government will require vehicles in the U.S. to have emergency braking – a foundation technology for autonomous driving – as a standard feature within five years, J.D. Power said. The 31% of consumers willing to pay $700 for the advanced version of this system (adds steering) is greater than the percentage of consumers who would pay for less expensive technologies like digital key at $250; dash camera at $300; and mobile system control at $400;
  • Convenience – Consumers aren’t as enthusiastic about niche convenience technologies; collision protection and driving assistance-related technologies comprise most of the technologies with the highest pre-price interest, while features in the entertainment and connectivity, and comfort and convenience categories show the lowest pre-price interest;
  • Notable convenience exception – Gen Z consumers have a “fairly high” interest in digital key technology, which eliminates the need for a physical key or key fob and is replaced by a smartphone or smartwatch. A total of 40% indicate that they definitely would like digital key technology on their next vehicle, and 58% are willing to pay $250 for it, compared with 28% among all consumers.

The U.S. Tech Choice Study, now in its third year, examines consumer awareness, interest and price elasticity of various future and emerging technologies by vehicle make and consumer demographic. The major technology categories analyzed in the study are entertainment and connectivity, comfort and convenience, driving assistance, collision protection, navigation and energy efficiency. Consumer interest in emerging concepts such as alternative mobility solutions, cybersecurity threats and trust in automated technologies was also explored.