The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Study: Consumers Want New Crash Avoidance Technologies

March 19, 2008

ROCHESTER, N.Y. --- A new Harris Interactive AutoTECHCAST study finds that half of respondents express an interest in purchasing blind-spot detection technology for their next new vehicle -- ranking it tenth among 66 unique technologies measured in the 2008 AutoTECHCAST study. Three in ten (29 percent) adults that evaluated lane-departure warning technology show interest in purchasing this technology.

While there is an interest in these new technologies, the survey finds that drivers are not ready to give up steering or helm control of their cars. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of considerers indicate they prefer that the system warn them, by way of noise or vibration, of the vehicle in their blind spot, but that they would prefer to take the necessary action to avoid the collision. Regarding lane departures, the majority (62 percent) indicate that they prefer a system that warns them their vehicle is drifting but they would prefer to make the necessary maneuver to correct the situation.

The new Harris Interactive 2008 AutoTECHCAST study, an annual survey of adult vehicle owners in the United States, includes blind-spot detection and lane departure warning as well as 64 other unique technologies spanning across several categories including: comfort & convenience, exterior, glass, HVAC, intelligent sensing, interior, lighting, powertrain & alternative fuels, ride & handling, safety, and telematics, entertainment & audio.

Blind-spot detection is a system that can identify vehicles or objects within a vehicle's blind spots and provide an audible warning, a visual warning and/or vibrate the vehicle's steering wheel or seat if a lane change is attempted. The technology makes the driver aware of the vehicles located in the blind spots and prevents crashes due to vehicle collisions during lane changing, as defined in the AutoTECHCAST study.

When it comes to blind-spot detection and warning, half of those who evaluated the technology, by reading a short description of its functionality and benefits, indicate they are at least likely to include it in their next vehicle. When made aware of an estimated market price of $600, interest -– as measured prior to the introduction of market prices -- decreases to 29 percent.

"This reaction shows that drivers see the benefit of blind spot warning," said Steve Lovett, director of Harris Interactive's automotive and transportation research practice. "Our research also demonstrates strong preference on consumers' behalf to stay safe yet in control at the same time. This is an important insight that marketers and brand managers need to understand to position this technology effectively."

As defined in AutoTECHCAST, lane-departure warning detects when a vehicle is wandering out of its lane -- without a turn signal being activated -– and triggers a warning to the driver. As with blind-spot detection, the warning can be audible, visual and/or physical (e.g., vibration in the seat or steering wheel) and prevents drivers from inadvertently entering other lanes.

While initial consideration for lane departure warning is much lower than for blind-spot detection and warning (29 percent versus 50 percent respectively), drivers who evaluated lane-departure warning have similar opinions regarding these new technologies and their level of control. Comparable to blind-spot detection and warning, consideration for lane departure decreases to 21 percent, once respondents are made aware of the estimated market price of $400.

These new innovative technologies beg the question: are drivers ready to give up control of their vehicles to allow it to take corrective action? At this time, the answer is no, Harris Interactive said.

For those who are likely to include blind-spot detection in their next vehicle nearly three-quarters (73 percent) indicate they prefer the system warn them of the vehicle in their blind spot, but that they would take the necessary action to avoid the collision. On the other hand, 15 percent are willing to allow the system to assist them with the corrective action, while only 6 percent prefer the system take complete control of the vehicle in a collision situation.

"While it is clear that consumers want to be warned of a vehicle in their blind spot, they overwhelmingly desire to maintain complete control of their vehicle," Lovett said. "Consumers are clearly saying that they want to know if there's a problem, yet at the same time they want to take the lead in getting themselves out of it. When we start to look at technologies that can take the helm and steer the vehicle, we have to understand we could be infringing on drivers' comfort zones, which is the exact opposite of the technology’s intent."

When it comes to the warning aspect of the blind-spot detection and warning system, preferences vary greatly. Two-fifths (41 percent) of considerers prefer an audible alert (e.g., beep or buzz), 18 percent prefer a system that utilizes a camera which relays a blind spot image in the vehicle’s cabin, 17 percent prefer a visual alert (e.g., flashing light/icon) in the side view mirror, 10 percent prefer a physical alert (e.g., vibration in the driver seat), and finally 7 percent prefer a visual alert (e.g., flashing light/icon) in the instrument panel or dashboard.

Similarly for lane-departure technology, the majority (62 percent) indicate they prefer a system that warns them their vehicle is drifting, but they would make the necessary maneuver to correct the situation. Interestingly, those considering lane-departure warning are more likely to allow the technology to assist them (23 percent) compared to those considering blind-spot detection and warning (15 percent).

"Consumers seem to have slightly more appetite for the vehicle to assist in correcting a lane departure than they do for blind-spot correction," Lovett said. "This could be because of the ability to override correction by use of the turn signal. Even so, the message is clear the drivers still desire to maintain control once warned of a potentially dangerous situation."

For one-half (52 percent) of "considerers," the preferred method of warning for this technology is an audible buzz or beep, followed by a physical warning (e.g., vibration in the seat or steering wheel) -– 30 percent, and finally a visual alert (e.g., flashing light/icon) in the instrument panel or dashboard -– 11 percent.

Crash avoidance technologies are clearly the new frontier in automotive safety. This Harris Interactive AutoTECHCAST study finds the relevance and attractiveness of two new innovative safety technologies making their introduction into the automotive industry. The strong survey performance and consumer reaction to both blind spot detection and lane departure warning technologies suggest that drivers are increasingly ready for this new suite of intelligent sensing equipment, Harris Interactive said.

The AutoTECHCAST study was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive between December 28, 2007 and January 14, 2008 among 12,891 U.S. adults ages 18 and over and who own or lease a vehicle, have a valid driver's license, have at least one household vehicle, own a listed North American model -– 2003 or newer, and are at least 50 percent involved in the decision to buy their next household vehicle. Results were weighted as needed for age, gender, education, region and income and to properly represent U.S. vehicle segment owners. Propensity score weighting also was used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

Harris Interactive is one of the largest and fastest-growing market research firms in the world.





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