Consumers Becoming More Receptive to Self-Driving Cars

According to a new report by accounting and consulting firm KPMG, consumers are still skeptical about self-driving vehicles, but they’re beginning to warm up to the idea.  Unfortunately for automakers, they’re also more comfortable with technology developed in Silicon Valley than in Detroit.

When asked to rate their willingness to purchase a self-driving vehicle from a tech company on a scale of one to 10, participants in the KPMG focus group gave a median score of eight.  The median score for their willingness to purchase a self-driving car created by a premium auto maker such as Mercedes-Benz was slightly lower, at 7.75.  When asked to rate their willingness to purchase a self-driving vehicle from a mass-market brand like Ford Motor Company or General Motors Company, the median score dropped to five.

The bias toward self-driving technology developed in Silicon Valley may be the fact that Google has already taken the idea from the drawing board to the streets.

In 2012 Google posted a YouTube video that featured visually impaired Steve Hamah of Morgan Hill, CA behind the wheel of a Google Chauffeur software enabled Toyota Prius. In the video, Hamah says, “Ninety-five percent of my vision is gone. I’m well past legally blind.”

Automakers believe there’s a market for autonomous vehicles and so do a number of state governments.  On June 29, 2011, Nevada became the first state to permit the operation of driverless vehicles on its public roads.  California and Florida have since passed laws permitting their use.

Nissan Motor Company has announced plans to market an autonomous vehicle be as early as 2020, and General Motors Company, Ford Motor Company and Tesla Motors have all indicated that they will incorporate some autonomous features in future models.  Ford recently demonstrated its latest autonomous parking and accident avoidance technologies for the press in Belgium.

Among the interesting findings of the KPMG survey was the fact that consumers who are receptive to self-driving vehicles tended to be concerned about traditional performance features including speed and acceleration.  They also tend to be less concerned about owning a vehicle.  Google again appears to be ahead of the curve with its $250 million investment in Uber, a software and car service company that allows consumers to request a ride using their computer or mobile device.

Overall, women who participated in the study were more receptive to the idea of riding in an autonomous vehicle than their male counterparts. KPMG reports, “Some of the men were more likely to resist because self-driving vehicles would force them to stay in a lane and follow speed limits.”

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