Enthusiasm for automated vehicles grows in UK

03 June 2019 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
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With the potential for autonomous vehicle technology said to be set to remodel the nature of vehicle ownership in the coming era, 40% of British consumers say they would never buy a vehicle again once robocabs became viable. While this has various environmental upsides, the need to make this mode of transport profitable, and the growing web of regulation it will be bound by are holding back its potential, however.

New technologies, changes in consumer sentiment and new sales channels mean drastic disruption is on the horizon for the automotive sector. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are one key area of development, while electric vehicles are also in the works. Another part of this broader change is the various platforms leveraging digital technologies to disrupt the way we travel, as well as how we buy and sell cars.

While digital taxi hailing services such as Uber have disrupted the taxi industry, total disruption from new technologies for the vehicle mobility industry could top $2.1 trillion according to one recent report – even while new opportunities total $4.3 trillion. These opportunities stem from whole new vehicle models, service types and supply chains – all meeting the needs of various autonomous and electric vehicles.

Share of potential robocab users

To understand how far current development is in the shift towards a new set of wheels, Roland Berger releases its ‘Automotive Disruption Radar’ report into the industry. The latest edition, titled ‘Mobility's great leap forward’, uses country specific data on five key industry pillars. The survey covered 16,000 people across the 17 markets.

Consumer sentiment

Overall consumers globally are relatively open to the use of a fully autonomous robocab rather than own their own vehicle. Swedes are the most inclined to shift to fully autonomous robocabs, at 60% of the population surveyed, followed by the French, the Dutch, Singaporeans and South Koreans, all at 55%. The British are slightly more resistant, at 40% saying they would not buy a car again. Chinese, Indian and US respondents were the most reserved at 35% of those surveyed.

Electric vehicle and regulatory pressures

According to the report, the UK took a big step towards becoming a leader in autonomous driving with its Automated and Electric Vehicles Act, although it still requires supporting legislation. The country saw unspectacular but solid growth in EV sales, rising by a quarter to 2.2% of total sales.

Thanks to the rapidly improving efficiency of electric engines against their internal combustion counterparts, electrification has the potential to radically reduce local pollution. When coupled with a growing use of renewables in the energy sector, electric transport could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency. The fact fewer people would be buying new vehicles would reduce the strain on the environment that pumping out new units creates in the process.

The problem is that the emphasis on making these solutions viable in terms of profit means their impact on the environment is being held back. While the vehicles are set to become ‘cost competitive’ in the near term, their potential is of no material consequence to a mounting environmental crisis in the here and now. At the same time, regulatory requirements from local regions will see a variety of cities impose restrictions on their use within their boundaries over the coming decades, further hampering their proliferation.