Automotive manufacturers are investing millions of dollars in the development of electric and autonomous vehicles. But a recent survey conducted jointly by J.D. Power and Survey Monkey, a leading global survey software company has revealed that consumers still lack confidence in these emerging new technologies. This is despite the progress that has been made in refining these technologies within a relatively short span of time. The J.D. Power 2019 Q3 Mobility Confidence Index Study which was fueled by SurveyMonkey Audience was released recently and according to the study, the Mobility Confidence Index is 36 (on a 100-point scale) in the case of autonomous vehicles and 55 for battery-electric vehicles. These scores were the same three months ago and hence there has been no change in the interest shown by consumers in the last quarter.
Commenting on the results of the study, Kristin Kolodge, Executive Director, Driver Interaction & Human Machine Interface Research at J.D. Power said that they were a bit surprising but this is not necessarily bad news for automakers. The study pointed to the areas where the general public needs education and gives manufacturers the chance to make corrections to their plans to promote awareness about these technologies before they proceed with production.
The quarterly study indicates the level of market readiness and acceptance for autonomous and battery-electric vehicles, as seen from the perspectives of consumers and industry experts. Sentiment is assessed in three categories: low (0-40), neutral (41-60) and positive (61-100). Survey helped J.D. Power to conduct the study as part of which over 5,000 consumers and industry experts were polled about autonomous vehicles and another 5,000 were polled about battery-electric vehicles.
The key findings about autonomous vehicles were as follows
1. Mobility Confidence Index remains low for self-driving vehicles: Consumers continue to have a low level of confidence about the future of autonomous and this is reflected in the overall score of 36. All of the attributes analyzed in the study mainly remained flat when compared to Q2 results. The attributes which received the lowest score were: comfort riding in a self-driving vehicle; and comfort with self-driving public transport.
2. Men are more comfortable with autonomous technology than women: Over two-thirds (68 percent) of consumers said they had little to no knowledge about autonomous vehicle technology and more than half said they were unlikely to purchase or rent such a vehicle. Only half as many women said they had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of knowledge regarding such technology when compared to men. Women are also less likely to purchase or lease a self-driving vehicle. Only half as many women said they are comfortable with being in autonomous vehicles, sharing the road with such vehicles, autonomous public transport and with goods being transported in autonomous commercial vehicles.
3. Self-driving challenges: The experts surveyed said that it has proved to be more difficult to perfect autonomous vehicle technology than thought initially. It will not be an easy task to gain consumer trust and acceptance if this is the way that experts feel.
4. Job displacement and computer error are perceived disadvantages: About 38 percent of consumers are unexcited about any kind of autonomous and the main reason cited is worry abut technological failures/errors (71 percent). Others were worried about th eloss of jobs as many people are employed in the transport sector and the advent of such technology could make many unemployed.
The findings of the study about battery-electric vehicles are as follows:
1. Mobility Confidence Index remains neutral for battery-electric vehicles: Battery-electric vehicles had an overall score of 55, and the level of confidence in their future continued to be neutral. The attributes which had the lowest score included the chance of purchasing one and their reliability when compared to conventional vehicles.
2. Challenges for acceptance: The top challenges when it comes to electric vehicles, according to industry experts are consumer affordability and trust. Other key barriers are the high cost of production of electric vehicles and the development of a charging infrastructure.
3. EV ownership affects battery-electric vehicle purchase consideration: One interesting finding was that over half (60 percent) of those who have owned a battery-electric vehicle are “extremely likely” or “very likely” to buy such a vehicle again. On the other hand, 59 percent of those who have never been in one are “not too likely” or “not at all likely” to purchase or lease one. Over three-fourths (77 percent of owners and 76 percent with no experience) said subsidies would play a key role in their purchase decision. Only 4 percent of the respondents have owned a battery-electric vehicle while 68 percent said they had never been in a battery-electric vehicle.
4. Pros and cons: Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of the respondents to the survey believed that battery-electric vehicles are better for the environment. Half of respondents also believe the cost of charging is less when compared to the cost of refueling conventional vehicles. Nevertheless lack of charging infrastructure was a concern for 65 percent of the respondents while over half (60 percent) were concerned about driving range, with 76 percent of those with no battery-electric vehicle experience expecting vehicles to have a driving range of 300 miles or more.
Kolodge concluded by saying that charging, cost and range are the unavoidable challenges for battery-electric vehicles when compared with traditional vehicles. Automotive manufacturers need to ensure that vehicles with these advanced technologies offer overwhelming advantages when compared to conventional vehicles instead of just minimizing the disadvantages. There is plenty of potential for improvement. The first movers in this pace will definitely have a huge advantage.
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