UK interest in self-driving cars flattens on safety concerns and price

10 November 2017 4 min. read
More news on

The automotive industry is set to undergo a period of transformation as new technologies open up new possibilities. However, a new study shows that concerns about the safety of the technology may be denting interest among UK consumers, particularly surrounding self-driving cars.

Automation has the potential to revolutionise the automotive industry, and the technology is slated to radically reduce road accidents (by up to 90%) and improve resource efficiency. Through a combination of electrification, improved public transport and a built environment that encourages alternative transportation (biking, walking, etc.), considerable gains can be made to reduce pollution and waste, and improve human well-being and fitness.

The technologies underpinning automation continue to develop rapidly. To better understand how consumers view the technology, which could one day become ubiquitous on the road and in their lives, a new Deloitte study asked 22,000 consumers globally about their opinions of major trends in the automotive industry, with a specific report, titled ‘Driver Connectivity: United Kingdom Insights’, indicative of the opinion of only the UK cohort of the study (1250 participants).

Features of interest to UK consumers

The study notes that interest from UK consumers in automation technology remains relatively muted at the higher end of the automation scale, with interest in some segments even declining in recent years.

The surveyed consumers indicated the highest level of interest in basic automation, this includes complete control by the driver, with some tasks automated – 75% of consumers said that they were interested in the technology in 2014, in 2016 this had fallen to 67%. Interest in more advanced forms of automation, automation that combines at least two functions, was noted to have increased, up from 51% in 2014 to 59% in 2016.

Fully autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle interest was noted as relatively muted, however, with 34% interested in semi-autonomous vehicle technology and 32% interested in fully autonomous vehicles.

More frugal to investments

Consumers have, according to this study, become more frugal when it comes to investing in automation technology – although macroeconomic conditions may be weighing on their judgement. Total willingness to pay for vehicle automation has fallen from £677 in 2014 to £375 last year. The cost of full/partial self-driving technology was higher than the average, however, at £501, while safety drew an average price tag of £363.

Interestingly, a considerable generational gap was noted, with generation Y respondents willing to spend £629 on average for automation technology, while Boomers were willing to spend £186 on average.

Willingness to pay for automation

Safety concerns around fully self-driving car technology are noted by almost three quarters of respondents, who believe that such cars will not be safe. Just over half of respondents believe that travelling in a self-driving car will be a positive experience, while 49% say that the practical benefits of the technology will mean that they free up time for other activities.

Improved safety

To gain consumer trust, government regulations will be required as a precursor for the development of safety track record for self-driving cars being used on the street. 48% of respondents say that the government needs to approve of the use of self-driving cars, while brand trust is noted as important by 44% of respondents. Finally, word of mouth is noted as a factor that promotes safety by 37% of UK respondents.

In terms of the automation technologies ranked as the most useful by UK respondents, safety comes in for the top four spots, with object recognition and collision avoidance, driving situation information, aversion of dangerous driver situations, and steps in medical emergencies and accidents taking the first four spots. Maintenance notifications, remote shutdown and fuel efficiency are further ranked.

The consultancy firm notes that, “Forces are changing the mobility landscape and affording consumers more choices in meeting their transportation needs. For automotive companies, these shifting consumer demands result in a number of complex questions that may ultimately impact their products and how they engage with their customers.”

Related news: Arup supports UK Autodrive project on test track.