Will Self-Driving Cars be Accepted by Consumers?

21 August 2014 Dashboard Insights Blog

As recently discussed on Dashboard Insights, 68% of global automotive industry executives expect self-driving cars to be on the market by 2025. While self-driving cars may be on the market within the next decade, will consumers, particularly American consumers, actually want to own one?

A recent survey of 2,000 drivers found that 32% of those surveyed would “not continue to drive themselves once a self-driving car became available” and 25% of those surveyed “would never consider a self-driving car.” As traffic gets worse across the country and work days continue to extend, it is reasonable that many drivers would welcome the ability to work during their commute, with self-driving cars acting as an on-demand private car service without the costs of a driver. 

However, the desire for horsepower, handling and performance is engrained in the American psyche. It is hard to imagine that American drivers will willingly allow themselves to be divested of control over speed and lane choice as well as their perceived (whether accurate or not) “driving skill.” The 25% who would never buy a self-driving car likely reflect this segment of the market. In addition, while commuters may prefer self-driving cars, the survey revealed that 76% of those surveyed “would not trust a self-driving car to take their children to school.”

This split among consumers reflects the challenges that self-driving cars will face in gaining broad market adoption. Further, if 25% of Americans continue to drive themselves and 76% of parents continue to drive their children to school, will self-driving cars gain market acceptance? Moreover, if only a portion of the cars on the road are self-driving, will self-driving cars be materially safer or reduce congestion on the nation’s highways? Obtaining broad consumer acceptance may be even more difficult when the potential environmental consequences of self-driving cars are evaluated, including new housing developments well outside of major city centers, increased pollution and increased traffic, among others.

As the technology to build self-driving cars develops and mass manufacturing of self-driving cars becomes more of a reality, overcoming the hurdles to obtaining broad consumer acceptance will be essential to the success of self-driving cars.

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