Fueling Your Drive: What Do Car Owners Think About Self-Driving Cars?

Fueling Your Drive: What Do Car Owners Think About Self-Driving Cars?

The self-driving car market has experienced many recent improvements, including the addition of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). The industry also plans to roll out completely autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the near future.

As automakers continue to invest in AVs, car buyers are warming up to the idea of these vehicles in the marketplace. Earlier this year, CarGurus benchmarked its first self-driving car survey and learned that this year more consumers are excited about self-driving cars. We investigated to see what’s changing in consumers’ minds. 

1. Shopper Excitement

Based on the results, consumers are now more excited about the advances made in self-driving car technology. The number of car owners who say they are excited about self-driving vehicles increased from 21% in 2018 to 32% in 2019. There has also been a shift in what car buyers perceive as the main issues around self-driving technology. In 2018, respondents said their top three concerns were:

  1. Safety
  2. Fear that technology is not ready
  3. Fear of who takes the blame if something goes wrong

On the other hand, 2019’s respondents cite these as their top three concerns:

  1. Safety 
  2. Fear of who takes the blame if something goes wrong  
  3. Preference for driving and operating their own car

These results show that although safety is still a top concern, consumers feel more confident in AV technology than they have in the past. Now, their concerns are more likely to center around their own personal driving preferences.

2. Likelihood to Own in the Next 10 Years  

When asked about the likelihood they’ll own a self-driving car in the next 10 years, the number of respondents who expect to more than doubled, from 13% in 2018 from 28% in 2019. It’s possible that consumers are becoming more comfortable with self-driving car features as they become more widespread in today’s vehicles. A Canalys study suggests that 7% of new cars sold between 2018 and 2019—roughly 250,000 vehicles—have the capability of Level 2 self-driving. A few examples of vehicles with autonomous features include:

  • BMW’s traffic-jam assist in models like the BMW X5
  • Cadillac’s Super Cruise in models like the CT6
  • Nissan’s ProPilot Assist in models like the Altima  
  • Tesla’s Autopilot in models like the Model X
  • Volvo’s Pilot Assist in models like the XC90

3. Company Trust 

Twenty-nine percent of car owners believe that Tesla is the company most trusted to develop self-driving cars. This is up from 25% in last year’s survey and shows that Tesla has added to its lead in self-driving car consumer sentiment. It will be interesting to keep an eye on Tesla’s self-driving car technology over time, especially as industry voices like Consumer Reports note that Tesla’s Autopilot technology performs significantly worse than a human driver.

Beyond Tesla, the 2019 survey results show that 10% of car buyers increased their overall trust in any brand between 2018 and 2019, and this uncovers an underlying opportunity for automakers when it comes to introducing self-driving cars to their current customer base. Familiarity with and awareness of a brand may aid in increasing trust between consumers and their future self-driving car product lineups. In the 2019 survey, around half of car buyers who own a Honda, Toyota, Chevrolet, or Ford say that they would consider purchasing a self-driving car from their respective brand, and many of these makers (like Ford, Honda, and Toyota) are currently working with self-driving tech companies to do just that. 

4. Willingness to Use Autonomous Ride-Hailing Services

Ride-hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber are already implementing self-driving vehicles in their rideshare services today, and despite some market skepticism, they are garnering consumer satisfaction. CarGurus’ 2019 survey notes that 35% of respondents who currently use ride-hailing services would consider taking a ride in a self-driving car, and the sentiment for ride-hailing services to use self-driving cars is improving. In Las Vegas, Lyft recently partnered with Aptiv for a self-driving car pilot program, and the results showed that 92% of riders felt safe and had a positive experience.  

It’s possible that riders who feel safe in self-driving ride-hailing services may experience some disconnect between operating an autonomous vehicle and simply being a passenger in one. Besides safety, the second concern respondents point to in both the 2018 and 2019 survey data is who would take the blame if an accident occurs in a self-driving car. It’s likely that as passengers, riders may worry less about blame since they aren’t the ones controlling the vehicle. 

Now What? 

Between 2018 and 2019, consumer sentiment around self-driving cars shifted. The results show that consumers are becoming more comfortable with autonomous vehicles in the market and excitement for these cars is trending upward. As self-driving technology continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see if the upward trend of excitement continues in the third-annual CarGurus self-driving car sentiment survey next year.

For more car news, check out these articles:

  • To Learn More About Autonomous Tech, Automakers Deliver Pizzas
  • Protect Your Personal Data from the Driver’s Seat
  • 5 Award-Winning Used Trucks & Crossovers

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