Half of car buyers say no to a driverless car future

The biggest challenge facing a future of driverless cars may not be the most obvious one. As the UK contemplates the obstacles that lie ahead for legislature, infrastructure and technology, research from Auto Trader reveals that 49% of motorists are disinterested in the technology.

With over 5,500 UK motorists surveyed reveals the UK is a nation of car owners, and they intend to stay that way. Over 85% of full UK license holders own at least one car and 81% of all car owners today are committed to owning cars throughout their lifetime. And whilst 73% of owners agree that independence is their biggest motivation for car ownership, a third also say it’s all about their ‘enjoyment of driving’ – and some motorists feel their cherished relationship with the car is threatened by a driverless future.

45% of motorists that claim no interest in fully-autonomous cars say they enjoy driving too much to find the prospect of a driverless car appealing, with 49% of the same group claiming they know too little about the technology to even gauge their level of interest.

Only 21% of all motorists claim to know what a fully-autonomous vehicle is, and awareness levels drop significantly with older motorists – with 81% of over 55s admitting they aren’t clear on what the term means.

But it’s not just awareness that seems to be stunting interest levels with today’s motorists.  44% of 17-44 year olds predict that fully-autonomous cars will not be available in their lifetime, highlighting a large proportion of motorists who share a lack of confidence in the technology, as well as the UK’s ability to deliver it anytime soon.

Autonomous Ford Fusion in testing
The speculated timeline for fully-autonomous vehicles is at odds with this consumer sentiment, with some sources claiming fully-autonomous cars will be on UK roads as early as 2030.

Auto Trader’s Editor-in-Chief, Jon Quirk, said,

“It’s undeniable that we are headed towards a fully-autonomous future. There is major progress being made by car makers and tech companies, but consumers are also becoming more attuned to owning cars that are more fuel efficient, technologically savvy and better connected, as the car evolves further to meet the demands of modern lifestyles.

The increase in desirability we are seeing today with electric and alternative fueled vehicles mirrors this trend, and, once they’re ready, we can expect fully-autonomous vehicles to experience a similar progressive adoption, as uptake and desirability increases with confidence in the technology and the introduction of more variety across make and models.”

Alternative fuels on the up

Highlighting a shift in car buyer desirability for alternative fuel types saw a 58% rise in searches for electric vehicles in 2016 on its marketplace, with hybrid vehicle advert views also growing by 52%. In contrast, searches for diesel vehicles fell by 14% last year, chiming with the 6.8% decline reported in diesel car sales for December 2016 on the same month in 2015.

Quirk adds,

“The fallout with diesel is likely to continue. The Government has now advised the restriction of diesel cars being driven in inner cities in a bid to decrease urban air pollution. It is a big turning point in consumer attitudes towards diesel, but more broadly it could become a big catalyst in introducing more car buyers to alternative fueled vehicles, in light of a fresh debate and wider awareness around the effects of carbon fuels on the environment, as well as drivers’ wallets.”

As consumer interest in autonomous vehicles was evenly split, the Report also looks at which brands or tech companies currently developing autonomous vehicles were the most desirable for the consumers that did show an interest. Out of the 15 brands that have publically shared intentions to develop fully-autonomous vehicles, Ford was ranked as the most appealing by today’s motorists, with 83% of those that voted for the American manufacturer pointing to ‘positive past experiences’ as the reason they found the brand the most appealing.

Audi finished second with consistently high scores across all factors except perceived affordability, whilst new car maker Tesla and Mercedes-Benz finished joint third, with motorists highlighting Tesla’s technology expertise (92%) and Mercedes-Benz voters identifying their ‘trust in the brand’ as the decisive factor (89%).

Google was the highest ranking tech company finishing ninth out of the 15 brands, and despite remaining largely secretive about its car making plans, Apple finished above car manufacturers Volvo and Hyundai, with motorists positively speculating about the perceived technology in an Apple car (97%).

Your thoughts

What are your thoughts on driverless / autonomous cars?  Would you travel in one and how close to reality are they really?

Please give us your thoughts in the comments below.

The Founder of driveEV. A driving and new technology fan enjoying learning all about the future of motoring. I drive a BMW i3.