Trust in autonomous vehicles rises, with traditional manufactures most trusted

27 March 2018 6 min. read
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Self-driving electric cars are said by manufacturers to boost both wellbeing and the environment, reducing wasted resources, emissions as well as high safety profiles. New analysis shows that spin from the likes of Elon Musk is paying off, as potential customers are decreasingly concerned around safety and increasingly keen on electric vehicles, although traditional automotive players continue to be the most trusted to deliver the technology is most countries.

Self-driving cars continue to see heavy investment from both incumbent OEMs as well as technology firms, including big names such as Google and Apple. The technology remains in its infancy, however, with various regulatory hurdles, technological barriers and consumer confidence being present to scuttle projects in the near term. Different opinions have formed around how long it will take for the technology to become ubiquitous, assuming no pitfalls are encountered, with optimists predicting a near-term revolution while pessimists see the development and implementation as taking decades.

The allure of self-driving cars remains strong, they promise at least, to significantly outperform motorists in terms of safety, reduce idle cars taking up city space, as well as create a new method to move people between a range of locations in an efficient and potentially cost-effective manner. Companies across industries are investing heavily in the technology, with estimates at $80 billion over the past three years.

Consumer who think self-driving cars are not safe

Recent news of the first death caused by a self-driving car experiment has created apprehension around responsibility, with difficulties increasingly in the hands of legislators around how best to treat the vehicles and the impact they have on society. A new report from Deloitte, titled ‘Great expectations’ looks at 22,000 peoples’ perception, across 17 countries, of the new technology as well as wider trust issues.

The most recent survey shows that consumers are considerably more positive about the technology in terms of the perception of safety. In all countries surveyed the number of respondents that think the technology will not be safe has fallen significantly since the previous survey. The Japanese remain the most concerned, however, with the percentage of consumers who think self-driving cars will not be safe coming in at 57% of respondents. The republic of Korea comes in second spot at 54% of respondents – the drop is from 81% in the 2017 survey.

In Belgium the number has fallen by 19% to 50% who think that self-driving cars will not be safe, while in the UK 48% say that they will not be safe, a drop of 25%. The people least concerned about the technology include Mexican, Brazilian and Chinese consumers, at 22%, 25% and 26% respectively in the 2018 survey.

Consumer preference for type of engine

Aside from a shift towards autonomous vehicle types, consumers are also increasingly interested in electric vehicles. The technology is developing rapidly, with estimates of an inflection point in sales in the mid-2020s. Electric vehicles will largely replace internal combustion engines (ICE), with considerably stronger performances related to environmental and health impacts.

In the latest survey, Chinese consumers – one of the fastest growing markets in the world – remain interested in some form of electric vehicle, particularly hybrids (40%) and battery electrics (16%) for their next vehicle. Italians too are keen on HEVs and BEVs, although to a lesser extent. Japanese consumers are also on the lookout for HEVs for their next vehicle (38%) or a BEV (9%). US consumers and South African consumers remain the keenest on ICE vehicles, although this could change rapidly as the economic story begins to favour electric vehicle technology.


The firm also asked respondents to identify the type of companies they trust the most to bring fully autonomous vehicle to the market – with traditional car manufacturers, new AV company/other or existing tech company relevant options.

Mike Woodward, UK automotive leader at Deloitte, said, “Two significant trends could move us closer to the tipping point: battery cost reduction and government regulation. The trend towards mandating electrified powertrains, not merely demanding increased fuel efficiency or better carbon footprints, lays out a ‘must-do’ path for car manufactures. As automakers simultaneously begin to partner on building out electric charging infrastructure and developing other value-added services that increase the convenience factor for consumers, electric vehicles could become a desirable alternative.”

Types of companies trusted with autonomous vehicles

In China, new AV company / other won out (53% of respondents), followed by traditional car manufacturers (28%). In India, meanwhile, existing tech companies were found to be the most often selected (41%) followed by new AV company / other (30%). Western Europe was more trusting of traditional manufacturers, with Germany  at 48%, the UK  at 51%, and France at 55%. The Japanese were the most keen on traditional players, at 76% of total respondents.

Public opinion is far from unanimous about the technology, however. A survey last year by Pew Research Center found that more than half of Americans would not want to ride in a driverless car if given the option and expressed some level of worry about such vehicles.

Further to this, it remains to be seen how these results, and Deloitte’s, will have been impacted by the news of a fatal collision involving an autonomous vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. The vehicle, which was part of an autonomous vehicle pilot by Uber, collided with a pedestrian wheeling her bicycle across a road, while the car’s attendant was seen to be distracted by something below the dashboard. The car did not slow down during its fateful approach of the pedestrian. 

With regards to the Deloitte study, meanwhile, the car was also sourced from traditional manufacturers. Toyota have since suspended all US tests of driverless cars, as have Uber.

Missy Cummings, a professor of engineering at Duke University wrote on Twitter after the accident in Arizona, "Hopefully Congress will take note and stop rushing to deploy this immature technology.”