The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Malfunction Fears May Haunt Self-Driving Cars

October 4, 2017

Developers of autonomous driving systems still face the challenge of winning the public's trust in the evolving technology. Photo courtesy of Waymo.
Developers of autonomous driving systems still face the challenge of winning the public's trust in the evolving technology. Photo courtesy of Waymo.

In a recent survey assessing American attitudes about autonomous vehicles, 84% of respondents expressed concerns about potential vehicle software malfunctions and 80% said they worry about possible hardware failure.

The survey, conducted by research firm AlixPartners, included 1,567 American consumers who own or operate a passenger car or light truck. The survey was administered between July 27 and Aug. 2 of this year.

Survey results also underscore Americans’ ongoing anxiety over threats to cybersecurity. A total of 77% of those questioned said they have concerns about self-driving cars being hacked and taken over, and 75% said they would worry about having their personal data stolen from an autonomous vehicle.

When asked who they would trust most to protect their data privacy in a self-driving car, 50% said tech companies — compared to just 14% who said auto companies. When asked who they trusted most to protect their vehicle from hacking, 62% said tech companies while 8% said auto companies. Ride-hailing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, placed a far-distant third in trust for both questions — just 1% for each.

While 79% said they trust traditional automakers most to design and develop autonomous vehicle hardware, only 10% said they trust automakers most with the software side. But 78% said they trust tech companies most to design and develop AV software. Just 10% said they trust tech companies most for designing and building vehicles.

Nearly half of those surveyed (49%) said they don’t currently feel confident in the ability of autonomous vehicles to navigate them safely. A total of 55% said they’re unlikely to consider purchasing a self-driving car. Additionally, just 29% of consumers said they’d be willing to consider buying an autonomous vehicle and to pay an incremental $2,600 on average for the privilege.

“When it comes to autonomous vehicles, traditional auto companies and suppliers have a big, two-front battle ahead of them: educating the consumer about AVs and figuring out how to compete in the software end with highly advantaged tech companies – or partner with them when that makes more sense,” said Mark Wakefield, global co-head of the automotive and industrial practice at AlixPartners. “Either way, traditional auto will have to undertake massive operational and organizational changes to afford the autonomous-vehicle investments, be successful with partnerships and not get left out of the profitable parts of the new automotive ecosystem.”

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