The Los Angeles Times last week ran a story about a recent survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates on potential driver interest in emerging automotive technologies, such as light emitting diode (LED) headlights, natural language voice-activation, next-generation head-up displays, wireless connectivity systems, and remote vehicle diagnostics. The upshot: How much were drivers willing to pay for them? Roughly 65 percent of the 17 400 customers surveyed last March said they would “definitely” or “probably” purchase remote vehicle diagnostics capability for their next vehicle if it were available—that is, until they heard that its cost works out to about $15 per month. Then the number who were highly interested in purchasing it dropped to 41 percent. Each of the aforementioned technologies had similar changes in the level of consumer interest when the price of these features was introduced.
One of the areas the survey focused on was autonomous driving technology. Roughly 37 percent of those surveyed by J. D. Power said they would “definitely” or “probably” purchase such a technology if it was available as a feature in their next car; that figure dropped to 20 percent once those surveyed heard that the cost was around $3000. In a press release, J. D. Power reported that:
“The study finds that vehicle owners are nearly as likely to select fully autonomous driving mode as they are to select semi-autonomous driving technologies such as emergency stop assist ($800), traffic jam assist ($800) or speed limit assist ($800).”
The folks most interested in fully autonomous driving are males, those between the ages of 18 and 37, and those living in urban areas. You can look at drivers' interest in more detail in the survey's graphs.
Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at the automotive analyst firm, was quoted as saying:
“Many owners are skeptical about releasing control of their vehicle and would like to see the technology proved out before they adopt it.”
Yours truly included. In a bit of a fantasy-driving daydream, I would kind of like there to be a lot of other self-driving cars being on the road having to give way to my driving priorities.
That said, assuming that the technology will soon be available for purchase (last week Google, which has been testing its approach to autonomous vehicles for years, said it is now actively seeking an automotive technology partner), how much would you be willing to pay for a vehicle that makes its way through traffic without any input from you? Or would you never even consider using it, even if it were a standard option?
And does anyone want to speculate in what decade it will likely become a mandatory feature on U.S. automobiles, and how long after that when it becomes mandatory to use?
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.