A recent report by J.D. Power, the 2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study, shows that all generational groups, with the exception of Gen Y, are becoming more skeptical of self-driving technology. This report reflects findings from the In-Vehicle UX group at Strategy Analytics, which found a correlation between negative press release and declining consumer confidence in autonomous vehicles. Both studies agree that this poses a challenge to car manufacturers and technology developers.

“In most cases, as technology concepts get closer to becoming reality, consumer curiosity and acceptance increase,” said Kristin Kolodge, Executive Director of Driver Interaction and HMI Research at J.D. Power. “With autonomous vehicles we see a pattern where trust drives interest in the technology, and right now the level of trust is declining.”

The U.S. Tech Choice Study, fielded in January-February 2017 and based on an online survey of more than 8500 consumers who purchased/leased a new vehicle in the past five years, examines consumer awareness, interest, and price elasticity of various future and emerging technologies by vehicle make and consumer demographic. J.D. Power defines the generations as Pre-Boomers (born before 1946); Boomers (1946-1964); Gen X (1965-1976); Gen Y (1977-1994); and Gen Z (1995-2004).

The study showed that, compared with 2016, 11% more Gen Z consumers and 9% more Pre-Boomers say they “definitely would not” trust automated technology. However, similar to the 2016 study, consumers in the 2017 study show great interest in collision protection and driving assistance technology. According to the study, six of the top 10 features that consumers were most interested in before learning the price—smart headlights, camera rear-view mirror, emergency braking and steering system, lane-change assist, camera side-view mirrors, and advanced windshield display—come from these two categories.

“Along with collision mitigation, there are many benefits to autonomous vehicles, including allowing those who are unable to drive in today’s vehicles to experience freedom of mobility,” Kolodge said. “Interestingly, though, 40% of Boomers do not see any benefits to self-driving vehicles. Automated driving is a new and complex concept for many consumers; they’ll have to experience it firsthand to fully understand it. As features like adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, and blind-spot warning systems become mainstream, car buyers will gain more confidence in taking their hands off the steering wheel and allowing their vehicles to step in to prevent human error.”

Other findings from the U.S. Tech Choice Study include:                                                                       

  • Younger consumers are far more comfortable with technologies that assume control of vehicle operating functions. Examples include allowing mobile devices to take control of infotainment systems; an in-vehicle artificial intelligence (AI)-based assistant; and autonomous driving and parking technologies.

  • For all five of the technologies with the largest purchase intent gap, Gen Y/Gen Z purchase intent is greater than Boomers, who say they definitely/probably are interested in a feature even before they know the price.

  • Gen Z has the highest interest in all alternative mobility types, including 50% indicating they are definitely/probably interested in mobility sharing/co-ownership; 52% for journey-based ownership; 56% for unmanned mobility; and 56% for mobility-on-demand.

  • The 31% of consumers willing to pay $700 for a combined emergency braking and steering system technology is greater than the percentage of consumers who would pay for less expensive technologies like digital key at $250; dash camera at $300; and mobile system control at $400.

  • Collision protection and driving assistance-related technologies comprise most of the technologies with the highest pre-price interest, while features in the entertainment and connectivity, and comfort and convenience categories show the lowest pre-price interest.

  • Gen Z consumers have a fairly high interest in digital key technology, which eliminates the need for a physical key or key fob and is replaced by a smartphone or smartwatch. A total of 40% indicate they definitely would like digital key technology on their next vehicle, and 58% are willing to pay $250 for it, compared with 28% among all consumers.

The major technology categories analyzed in the study are entertainment and connectivity; comfort and convenience; driving assistance; collision protection; navigation; and energy efficiency. Consumer interest in emerging concepts such as alternative mobility solutions, cybersecurity threats, and trust in automated technologies also was explored.


For more information about the 2017 U.S. Tech Choice Study, visit http://www.jdpower.com/resource/us-tech-choice-study.