Poll says buyers want self-driving cars from auto-tech company combo – USA TODAY
SAN FRANCISCO – Attention Apple CEO Tim Cook. While rumor has it you’re quietly planning to build a vehicle, consumers feel most comfortable with a self-driving car created through a partnership between an automotive manufacturer and a tech company.
When the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group asked nearly 6,000 respondents from 10 countries about their attitudes toward self-driving cars, 69% said they’d be most interested in a product coming from an auto-tech joint venture.
While Apple hasn’t said anything about its automotive plans, the company typically goes its own way when developing new products. In contrast, Google, which has been testing a fleet of autonomous cars for six years, has repeatedly expressed interest in partnering with an auto manufacturer for its self-driving car rollout, which may happen in the next five years. On the automotive side, companies such as Ford, Audi and Mercedes-Benz have been steadily ramping up their in-house self-driving car tech and teams.
Of those polled by WEF/BCG – who hailed from countries ranging from the U.S. to the United Arab Emirates – respondents in France, Germany, and Japan reported the highest levels of trust in traditional auto companies making self-driving cars, ranging from 50 to 58%. In the U.S., only 32% of respondents said automakers would be the ideal manufacturer of such vehicles.
“This survey is reassuring news for traditional automotive companies,” says Nikolaus Lang, a BCG senior partner who worked on the research. “Our results indicate that consumers primarily expect OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to play a leading role in the rollout of self-driving vehicles, with technology players such as Apple and Google contributing their relevant expertise.”
Not surprisingly, two-thirds of those polled predicted self-driving cars would be powered by either electric or hybrid engines. Google’s autonomous car is electric, as are Tesla’s Model S and Model X sedans, both of which are being loaded with a growing number of self-driving car features. Tesla recently added an Autopilot function to its latest software update, allowing the vehicles to keep themselves in a lane as well as change lanes safely when the driver signals.
Other findings from the survey, out Tuesday, include the fact that 60% were eager to try a self-driving car, with respondents in emerging markets – often with high-density cities – expressing the most interest (85% in India, 75% in China). Citizens with the least interest (36%) live in Japan.
Self-driving cars appealed to most (44%) because they can drop people off and then find parking themselves. The second most anticipated benefit (40%) is the ability to multitask while riding. Although many transportation experts predict that self-driving cars are most likely to show up in taxi form and be used as a service (88% said they want multiple private players offering shared fleets), the poll found that 53% of respondents would buy their own autonomous car, with 40% saying they’d pay a premium for self-driving features.
For all the excitement about the benefits of autonomous cars, many respondents (51%) expressed concern over the safety in being driven by a robot, with 45% lamenting the lack of control (in Google’s prototype self-driving car, there is no steering wheel nor are there gas or brake pedals). The concerns also carry over to the possibility of hackers breaking in and redirecting the car. And only 35% of parents polls said they’d be willing to let their children ride alone in a self-driving car.
When it comes to when the self-driving city of the future will materialize, the 25 city leaders polled by WEF-BCG concluded that the biggest hurdles will be both attitudinal (56% saying that a significant cultural adjustment will be key to autonomous car adoption) and technological (44% noted that interactions with pedestrians and crash-related priorities have yet to be worked out). Interestingly, regulation was considered a roadblock by only 20% of respondents.
Follow USA TODAY tech reporter Marco della Cava on Twitter @marcodellacava.