Our survey asks car buyers' attitudes on the growing use of autonomous technology in the car industry
Jim Holder
27 December 2016

If there’s one thing Leavers and Remainers can agree on, it is surely this: although everyone knows we are on a path to somewhere, the prospect of Brexit raises so many more questions than it answers that we don’t know exactly how we’ll get to a conclusion or what it is.

So it is with the automotive industry’s own Brexit-style dilemma, autonomous driving: we know it’s coming, but despite legislation and timelines being forged, the path to achieving it remains shrouded in fog and the final solutions – and complications arising from them – are far from certain. Little wonder that car buyers are confused.

To discover the depth of just how confused, plus to delve deeper into the expectations of customers and opportunities for car makers, Autocar teamed up with renowned survey research advisor Simpson Carpenter, which has been working in the automotive sector for more than 20 years, most frequently advising car makers on the thoughts of customers and potential customers. Led by Tom Simpson, managing director of the firm, we contacted more than 2500 people (consisting of 411 future car buyers, 1000 new car buyers and 1266 car enthusiasts) who had recently bought a car, were thinking of buying a car or classed themselves as car enthusiasts to poll their thoughts, which are laid out in the gallery above.

“The conclusions are broadly summed up by some simple statements,” says Simpson. “Chiefly, right now, confusion reigns. Opinions on the subject are polarised. The majority of people believe autonomous cars might be safer and might make life easier, but they have doubts that the technology will really work. Older people are the most resistant – and they are the ones that buy the cars – and there’s an underlying message from many people that they love driving cars, pure and simple, and they don’t want to lose that.

What are the main advantages of autonomous cars? 

Orange - New car buyers, Pink - Car enthusiasts

“Our results suggest the death of the car industry is much exaggerated and the shift to autonomy offers some real potential for major opportunities. There’s an underlying trend, too, that while buyers largely expect to buy their future cars from traditional car makers, they like the idea of car companies partnering with tech giants to make them. It’s that ‘Intel Inside’ philosophy that gives reassurance. There’s also evidence that some of the trends being pushed hard now – car sharing, for instance – are struggling for acceptance.”

As well as answering set questions, respondents were invited to leave commentary on autonomy. Broad themes emerged. Those who like the notion of autonomy feel it will provide more independence, especially for the elderly and disabled, while improving safety and relieving driver fatigue. “I like the idea of taking human error out of driving,” said one new car buyer. “Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us do every day.”

The most hostile groups make a clear assumption that technology will never be able to replicate human response and awareness, and there is a major fear that it will result in the enjoyment of driving being taken away. “The whole concept terrifies me,” said one car enthusiast. Another said: “It means I would have to trust a machine and ultimately artificial intelligence, and fundamentally I don’t feel able to do that.”

What are the barriers that an autonomous car must overcome?

Simpson concludes that, with the transition to fully autonomous cars gathering pace now and accelerating in the near future, car makers must start educating car buyers and enthusiasts in upcoming technology faster and more effectively.

“Ten years is not a long time to move opinions – and a remarkably short time to move fundamental attitudes,” he says. “The problem the car industry has – unlike the general tech industry with, for instance, mobile phones – is that car buyers are typically older and more averse to change. In tech, it’s younger people who adopt change and then teach older people to do the same. The car makers will have to rely on older people taking the plunge – yet it’s clear many don’t want to, especially a hardcore of enthusiasts, who are usually the opinion formers.

“That’s partly because most people simply don’t understand what self-driving tech means. It’s such a broad term. But also, research shows that customers do understand some of the benefits of autonomy but not all. People don’t want tech for tech’s sake. They want to know what it can do for them as an owner or user.”

Read more:

Ford to start testing autonomous cars on European roads

Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Tata kick-start £20m autonomous tech programme

Our Verdict

Ford Fiesta
Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

The seventh-generation Ford Fiesta is the UK's best selling car, helped by frugal engines, handling verve and a big car feel

Join the debate

Comments
13

27 December 2016
People love their cars, not in the way that many of us reading autocar do, but for the freedom and independence they provide. Whilst they may not drive their cars, they will still want their own personal motorised transport solution.

27 December 2016
Will we be left the pleasure of 'actual driving' only in the virtual world... when playing racing games?

27 December 2016
voyager12 wrote:

Will we be left the pleasure of 'actual driving' only in the virtual world... when playing racing games?

That is exactly the scenario with which we are faced. If autonomous cars are allowed to come to fruition then driving will end. Non-autonomous cars will be taken off the road and crushed, forcibly if necessary, unless their owners are willing and able to pay for authorized centres to render them undrivable and reduce them to the same level of useless, mundane crapness as the autonomous cars, just semi-mobile white goods.

That is the whole purpose of autonomous cars, to control the free movement of the people, so they aren't going to leave usable cars around to defeat that purpose. Autonomous cars are one of the tools that the lefties are aiming to use to enslave the people, and too many fools are walking straight into their trap. We face a future where unless the journey is authorized by a central control, the car will simply refuse to move, and indeed will report our attempt at circumnavigating the requirements of our masters.

A magazine like Autocar should be doing something to wake people up from their daze before it's too late, instead of encouraging the acceleration of the theft of the people's liberty.

I'm not anti-progress, in fact, despite being on the verge of the point where middle- becomes old-age, I'm very much a lover of technology. But technology should be for our benefit not detriment, and autonomous cars can only bring us harm as a society.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

27 December 2016
leave the politics out of it, this is supposed to be a motoring site, not a political one.. Thanks. As for autonomous driving, I have some features on my current car, and they work well, traffic jam assist, city safe with full auto brake, cross traffic alert, blind spot, auto cruise control, and active bending headlights, they all work well, but would i trust them completely, no I wouldn't, I still want to be able to take control and make my own decisions, I have experienced the odd blip, my car slammed on its brakes recently as I pulled up to a barrier at a multi story car park, for no reason whatsoever, it must have thought I was going to drive through it, and its never happened again, but it terrified the driver behind me, and made me look like an idiot.

289

27 December 2016
I would suggest that older (car buyers) are resistant to the technology more because with greater experience of driving situations as they understand in greater depth the complexity of the multiple scenarios/decisions (sometimes all at the same time), a driver has to make to avoid catastrophe. That's without moral decisions being thrown into the mix.
I was young once and fully understand the excitement of new tech...sadly the lack of experience means that practicalities are often overlooked.....not to mention the fallibility of the cars programmers!!!

27 December 2016
Towards what the paymaster wants to hear, I would imagine this is not a good result. Let's face it, why should I trust my car to drive better than me, when all computer programs have glitches and continually need updates to sort problems out, only to introduce new ones. Then there's hardware failures, so (say) 10% of all autonomous cars have some sort of component failure that is critical to safe control of the car. Aircraft have backup systems and still have failures and there working environment is relatively simple and consistent compared to what a car would encounter.

The other problem is, "I enjoy driving my performance car" but insurance companies will no longer insure drivers, or premiums are ridiculously high, for those that still want to drive (even though you have decades of claim free driving history), scenario :0(.

I buy new cars every 2-3 years, my latest one has adaptive cruise control, the manual states that it cannot recognise some vehicles or pedestrians, in every circumstance and the driver needs to be aware and take action to retake control. High beam assist, it states in the manual, that it cannot recognise some situations when full beam should be switched off to avoid dazzling other road users and that it is the responsibility of the driver to take action to avoid such circumstances, Most drivers fail to do so :0(.

Autonomous vehicles will only be as good (safe), as the people programming the systems and as safe as the quality of components used.

27 December 2016
A88A wrote:

Autonomous vehicles will only be as good (safe), as the people programming the systems and as safe as the quality of components used.

Agreed, but is the result safer than the average driver? If the answer is yes, then I think the direction we are heading is logical, even if we, as car enthusiasts, don't like it.

27 December 2016
The question is "when we must be driven ?". Especially for insurances...

Car lovers are become dinosaurs...

Car magazines can't talk about it - it's natural, you can't criticize too much your livelihood, but the future is not engaging...

I follow A88A, the environment of a car is far more complicated than for an aircraft.

27 December 2016
Yes, I know autonomous cars are coming. Yes, they will bring benefits to most people and the prospect of safer roads. And yes, the march of technology makes this all inevitable. Trouble is, as a car and driving enthusiast, I have a detached interest in the subject and my heart sinks every time I see another article on the subject in Autocar or any other magazine or website supposedly aimed at enthusiasts like me. Just call me an old fashioned dinosaur I suppose.

27 December 2016
TheDriver wrote:

Yes, I know autonomous cars are coming. Yes, they will bring benefits to most people and the prospect of safer roads. And yes, the march of technology makes this all inevitable. Trouble is, as a car and driving enthusiast, I have a detached interest in the subject and my heart sinks every time I see another article on the subject in Autocar or any other magazine or website supposedly aimed at enthusiasts like me. Just call me an old fashioned dinosaur I suppose.

I have to agree, but I suppose Autocar, like the others, has to keep involved with this discussion in a bid to future-proof its existence. (The parallel with Turkeys looking forward to Christmas is topically relevant..) So much of the news in this area seems to be simply about the various manufacturers stealing a march on the competition, which, as far as this subject is concerned, is also rather tedious for me.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK
  • Volvo V90
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The Volvo V90 is a big estate ploughing its own furrow. We’re about to see if it is refreshing or misguided
  • Kia Stonic
    First Drive
    18 October 2017
    Handsome entrant into the bulging small crossover market has a strong engine and agile handling, but isn’t as comfortable or complete as rivals