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J.D. Power Tech Choice Study: Consumer Interest Builds for Autonomous Technologies

The 2016 J.D. Power Tech Choice Study shows consumer interest in automated car technologies is building, but trust remains a major hurdle that must be overcome to pave the way for fully autonomous vehicles.

Age Matters

Presenting the study findings at Detroit’s Automotive Press Association, Kristin Kolodge, J.D. Power’s executive director, said trust in automated technologies varies widely by age. Younger consumers have a notably higher level of confidence compared to their older counterparts. More than half of the Gen Y and Gen Z consumers surveyed said they would trust self-driving technology compared with less than a quarter of Baby Boomers and less than 20 percent of pre-Baby Boomers who said they would trust it.

Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book research, however, found 65 percent of the Gen Z people surveyed lacked trust in the autonomous technologies; 41 percent cited concerns that autonomous cars would not drive as well as people do. The Power study showed that consumers of all ages have concerns with the privacy and security of the autonomous technologies as well as with the potential for systems to crash or be hacked. Power’s Kolodge said publicity around Wired magazine’s vehicle hack that shut down a Jeep on a highway and the more recent crash of a Google self-driving car into a bus damaged trust. Similarly, the auto industry’s poor performance with infotainment systems and Bluetooth connectivity between the car and phone — items that top the list of consumer complaints in quality surveys — doesn’t help the cause either.

Feature Focus

The J.D. Power Tech Choice study, which surveyed 7,900 consumers about 43 features within seven categories, revealed a similar irony that emerged in the 2016 Autotrader Car Tech Impact Study, released in January. While consumers of all ages to varying degrees are skeptical about autonomous and self-driving cars, they want the features that underpin them.

Power’s study showed automotive technologies that use radar, sensors, light detection and cameras — items essential to autonomous vehicles — are of high interest to today’s car shoppers. They include smart headlights, night vision, lane-change assist, traffic-jam assist, medical-emergency assistance, smart intersection and predictive-vehicle control. Autotrader’s tech study showed 70 percent of car shoppers surveyed wanted autonomous features such as parking assist, collision avoidance and automatic braking.

Indeed, Power’s conclusion matched that of Autotrader’s: Increased familiarity and experience with autonomous driving features will enhance acceptance and desire for them by consumers.

“Acceptance can be increased with exposure over time and experience with automated technologies,” said Kolodge. But, she added, “Trust is fragile and can be broken if there is an excessive number of incidents with automated vehicles.”

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