Car shoppers are more ready for autonomous vehicles than they may realize, according to a report from car shopping platform Edmunds.com. More than 60 percent of new vehicle models today can be purchased with some level or autonomous features, the report, Transportation Transformation, shows.
Whereas today more than 60 percent of new vehicle models can be equipped with what are called Level 1 or Level 2 autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, less than a quarter of new vehicle models offered these features just five years ago.
“While there are a number of ways one can define who’s ‘leading’ in the race to autonomy, analyzing the prevalence of active safety features demonstrates just how ready OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] are to bring this technology to mass production, and how willing consumers are to adopt it,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis. “While some car buyers may view a fully autonomous vehicle as a novelty, a vehicle that has the ability to prevent an accident before it occurs is seen as a safety breakthrough.”
In a recent Edmunds survey, more than 40 percent of consumers said they would spend between $1,000 and $2,000 more for a vehicle that had active safety features. They are most willing to pay a premium for blind-spot detection, pre-collision warning systems and lane keeping assist features.
“Usually it takes a long time for pricey new technologies to work their way down market from luxury to mainstream vehicles, but because changes in policy are mandating that many active safety features become standard, it’s happening much more quickly,” Caldwell said.
Edmunds also analyzed which automakers are offering active safety features on the widest variety of vehicles in their lineups and found that Tesla, Volvo, Honda and Mercedes-Benz are leading the way.
“Automakers that offer a full suite of active safety features on their vehicles are at a distinct advantage in the race to autonomy,” Caldwell said. “It’s a way they can demonstrate their technology leadership to car buyers now so that when full autonomy does come, they’ve already established trust and credibility with a large base of potential buyers.”
As automakers look to build this future buyer base, courting millennials is particularly important as they’re the ones who are most ready to be early adopters. In a recent Edmunds survey, 65 percent of millennials said they would trust a Level 4 autonomous vehicle, and 35 percent said they would buy a Level 4 autonomous vehicle if it becomes available within the next five years. Only 16 percent of millennials surveyed said they would never buy an autonomous vehicle, compared to nearly 50 percent of those 55 years old and older.
“As active safety features continue to become more and more prolific, we predict these older buyers will start to feel more comfortable with autonomous technology,” Caldwell said. “Our analysis shows the interest in autonomy is there — it’s just a matter of continuing to demonstrate to buyers that the benefits will outweigh any perceived risks.”
The view is shared by manufacturers and regulators. Consumers will only become comfortable with driverless cars after they ride in them, according to Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors.
“One of the greatest deterrents to progress in this field is consumer acceptance,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told Bloomberg News this summer at a department-sponsored conference. Chao has called on Silicon Valley to ” step up” and explain how they work since most commuters don’t have access to a self-driving car.
Source: Edmunds Transportation Transformation
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