Our look at the way car buyers see the future of autonomous cars comes at an important time for the industry. Although the recent tragedy in Arizona has paused testing on U.S. public roads, many people still think self-driving vehicles will be the wave of the future. That’s the driving force behind a new effort from the online magazine GenPop.com. Relying on data from the global research company Ipsos, the “What the Future” series is designed to explore fresh trends in autonomous mobility. After taking a look at the results of this survey, we at Autobytel have done a little exploring of our own. And, we've arrived at a new perspective on how real people are preparing for the world of self-driving cars.
10 Ways Car Buyers See the Future of Autonomous Cars
Photo Credit: Waymo
1) Autonomous Features are Increasing in Popularity
With even mainstream cars offering limited self-driving technologies right now—through features like adaptive cruise control—many people think the autonomous-vehicle revolution is inevitable. The Ipsos data reflects this. About 50 percent of the people questioned said they expect self-driving cars to be just as common on the road as regular ones within a decade. Similarly, 52 percent of the U.S. car buyers surveyed here had a positive view of self-driving cars, including 57 percent of the respondents who called themselves “car people.” Leading the way: younger shoppers, with 68 percent having a positive opinion of the technology.
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2) People will see their vehicle as a place to relax.
According to the What the Future (WTF) report, the average American currently spends 52 minutes a day commuting. And this number only counts the minutes it takes driving to and from work. If you’re like most people, you’ll also be driving to get groceries, take the kids to school, and a whole lot more. But with a computer doing the driving, you’ll be able to spend all that time also doing something else. Many people expect to kick back and relax instead. for example, the Ipsos survey asked consuers how they’d spend a typical hour in a driverless car. North Americans indicated they’d spend 14 minutes on social communications, 11 minutes reading or consuming other media, and six minutes napping.
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3) Only a little work will get done.
So, if people are spending about half their time just chilling out while the computer is driving, are they spending the other half hard at work? Perhaps catching up on business email or taking a mobile meeting? The answer to that is a resounding “no!” Unsurprisingly, North American drivers don’t seem all that interested in wasting their extra free time on business. Turning once more to the Ipsos time-usage data, survey-takers said they’d spend just five minutes of every hour in a driverless car on work-related activities. North Americans are not being lazy, either, as respondents from Asia and Europe answered the exact same way.
Photo Credit: General Motors
4) A Platform for Shopping
The same Ipsos data also shows people would spend two minutes each hour shopping online. Yet that may not tell the whole story. Digging deeper, Ipsos asked U.S drivers about advertising in autonomous cars, and many people were open to the idea—if it were handled in the right way. For example, 76 percent of drivers said that, if they were running low on fuel, it would be helpful if the car “told” them about an upcoming filling station. Further, almost 30 percent thought it would be useful if they were told when they were passing any stores or restaurants they’d shopped at before. Another 49 percent wanted to hear about “specials or sales” at their favorite stores.
Photo Credit: Waymo
5) A Place to Stay Alert
On the other hand, things may not actually change all that much for certain people. In any given hour in an autonomous vehicle, North American drivers reported they would spend 22 minutes still paying attention to the road. That’s by far the biggest chunk of time spent on any single activity, representing nearly 37 percent of the hour. To put it another way, people would spend 57 percent more time staying alert than they would on the next most popular diversion. It’s also worth noting that, even as European drivers claimed they’d spend the same amount of time doing the same thing, drivers from Asian countries would spend only 16 minutes every hour with their eyes on the road.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
6) The quality of on-road vacations will increase.
The Great American Road Trip already has a defining role in American culture, but the rise of self-driving cars could take things to a whole new level—especially among younger road-trippers. Per Ipsos research, 39 percent of people aged 18-34 would take more road trips if they had access to an autonomous vehicle. In addition, 37 percent would treat self-driving cars as an alternative to airplanes, for longer road trips. Approximately 30 percent would rely on autonomous vehicles to take a different or more scenic route, to go to different places, and to go to more of them. It’s not just the younger generation that would adjust its approach, however. Sixty-two percent of drivers of every age said they’d make positive changes to their road-trip experiences with driverless cars.
Photo Credit: Waymo
7) Older Americans will become more mobile.
The U.S. population continues to age quickly. By 2030, the number of U.S. citizens more than 65 years old is predicted to double, reaching 70 million people. True, this does happen to be the group least interested in self-driving cars. But it’s also the group that could see the most benefits. Consider the comments of Larry Dominique, president and CEO of PSA North America and a key player in the upcoming return of the Peugot auto brand to the United States. Interview by GenPop for WTF, he said: “I see … vans … taking people to doctor appointments and the mall and the park. … Or a Gen Xer or Millennial or iGen can send the service to go get Grandma.”
Photo Credit: BMW
8) Most see autonomous cars replacing their current car.
There’s no getting around the fact that people in the United States love their cars, and again, younger drivers are leading the way: 59 percent of all U.S. respondents in the Ipsos survey considered themselves to be “passionate” about the vehicles they drive, but for folks aged 18-34, that jumped up to 67 percent. This kind of feeling looks likely to transfer to self-driving cars as well. When asked what ownership mode they prefer with autonomous vehicles, 42 percent of U.S. respondents preferred to go on owning their own vehicles. Only 12 percent said they’d choose a pay-per-trip model, where a car would come pick them up, and only 8 percent said that kind of system would entice them to own fewer cars.
Photo Credit: Waymo
9) Most think insurance will be less expensive.
One of the biggest ongoing expenses with owning a car or truck is auto insurance. In a separate study by TheZebra.com, a new online insurance resource, data showed that the average automotive premium in this country can range all the way up to $2,610. (Ironically, that’s for the state of Michigan, including Detroit—the spiritual home of the U.S. auto industry.) The thing is, because much of that cost comes from covering accidents, and autonomous cars are supposed to be safer and reduce accidents, the price you pay for insurance could fall as the number of self-driving cars goes up. Indeed, more than half the people surveyed thought insurance would be cheaper if they owned an autonomous vehicle instead of a traditional one.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
10) Most believe autonomy will be required by law for safety.
Also, to really optimize the safety benefits of self-driving cars, futurists look forward to a time when all vehicles on the road can communicate with each other—and with the rest of the Internet of Things. In that kind of hyper-connected world, the entire U.S. auto fleet, and the automotive infrastructure, would work together to keep people safe. A railroad crossing, for instance, could tell your vehicle to stop if there was an approaching train. Moreover, the overall system could then automatically reroute traffic to minimize any disruptions. Perhaps that’s why about 30 percent of all people surveyed believed that the government would require all vehicles to be autonomous in the near-term future.
Read the entire What the Future study results for more details and insights.