Self-Driving Cars: Are We Ready?

Self-Driving Cars: Are We Ready?

Gaze out at the automotive horizon and you can almost see a new era coming into focus: the age of self-driving cars. An age when humans will no longer need to keep their eyes on the road. No more concerns about distracted driving or those dreaded rush hour commutes. Vehicles will whisk us where we want to go, quickly and efficiently, then scurry away.

Ultimately, the shape of the automotive future will depend on consumers—their needs, preferences, fears—and their pocketbooks. Will they trust these new vehicles? Buy them? Rent them by the hour or by the trip? Will people still need to own or lease their own vehicles? Will human operated vehicles become as rare as film cameras and record players? What macro-level changes would have to take place first? Would—or should—government mandate new vehicle automation standards? Or should regulators stay out of the way and let market forces prevail?

If self-driving truly becomes the norm, what will we look for in our vehicles? Think about how we differentiate automobile models and brands today: their powertrains, their handling on the road. Will any of that matter in the era of self-driving cars? If not, what will matter? What will future car buyers care about? If we build self-driving cars, will they come?

The answers to those questions could reshape the entire automotive ecosystem: new strategies, new technologies, new entrants in the automotive market, new joint ventures and alliances, new opportunities— and new risks.

We wanted to know what consumers thought—so we asked. On the pages that follow, we’ll introduce you to some of the people who answered.

The Crux of Our Research: Three Insights

Focus on Improving Consumers’ Quality of Life

While consumers still have many questions about safety, liability and the operation of self-driving cars, their receptivity increased significantly when presented with the right value proposition, which can be summed up as follows: shorter commute times + reduced traffic-related variability + the ability to use the vehicle in either self-driving or human- operated mode (self-driving on/off) = a strong incentive for consumer adoption.

Companies that get the value proposition right – and deliver a mobility/driving experience that is esthetically and emotionally pleasing could dominate the market. Companies that miss the mark on either the technology or the mobility experience could find themselves left behind.

Prepare for a Radically Different Automotive Ecosystem

In the brave new world of self-driving machines, powertrains may not matter. People may not care how fast a car accelerates from 0-60. Torque? Turbocharged? Really? If you’re not driving, what’s the big deal? The size and shape of vehicles might change. Consumers might well buy their next car from a high- tech company, such as Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Google or Intel, among others.

The more the concept of mobility is divorced from the experience of driving a car, the wider the door opens for new competitors. Given the size of the market opportunity, there is no doubt that smart innovators and investors will move in.

Expect New Threats and Opportunities from Mobility on Demand Services

Mobility on demand—already a small but growing sector within the transportation industry—could expand significantly, possibly obviating the need for families to purchase more than one vehicle.

The growth of mobility service providers could reshape both demand for vehicles and buying power. If the car you want shows up when you want it, where you want it, does it matter if you own it?

We wanted to know what consumers thought—so we asked. Click here to download the full report.

David Okwara

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