It appears self-driving vehicle developers will face more than technological or logistical challenges. They may have a gender gap to overcome.
According to J.D. Power's Q3 Mobility Confidence Index Study, released Wednesday, men are more comfortable than women with self-driving technology.
Power says only half as many women as men surveyed said they had a "great deal" or "fair amount" of knowledge on the subject of autonomous vehicles. Women also said they were less likely to purchase or lease a self-driving vehicle, and less comfortable than men with the following self-driving scenarios: being on the road with others using self-driving vehicles; riding in self-driving vehicles; self-driving public transit; and goods being transported in self-driving commercial vehicles.
The study is a quarterly examination of market readiness for and acceptance of self-driving and electric vehicles. J.D. Power conducts the research in collaboration with SurveyMonkey.
More than 5,000 consumers and industry experts were polled. J.D. Power found that consumer sentiment about EVs and AVs had not changed since the second quarter and that automakers are not making progress in changing these perceptions. This is despite the billions of dollars being invested in these technologies.
On a 100-point scale, the confidence level was 36 for autonomous vehicles and 55 for EVs.
"It was a little surprising to find consumer sentiment about self-driving vehicles and electrification has stayed flat, but it shows that consumers are really steadfast in their opinions about new mobility technologies right now, regardless of how close they are to being available for purchase," said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface research at J.D. Power.
More than two-thirds of survey respondents said they had little to no knowledge about self-driving vehicle technology, and well over half said they were unlikely to ever purchase or lease a self-driving vehicle.
Some also voiced concerns with the potential impact of self-driving technology on jobs, and 71 percent worried about technical failures.
On the EV front, some of the barriers to adoption are affordability, the availability of charging stations, inadequate driving range and overall reliability of the vehicle.
Sixty percent of those who had owned a battery-electric vehicle said they were "extremely likely" or "very likely" to purchase a similar vehicle, according to the study. Conversely, 59 percent of those who had never been in such a vehicle were "not too likely" or "not at all likely" to purchase or lease one. However, more than 75 percent of total respondents said tax credits or subsidies for electric vehicles would influence their purchase decision.
"Charging, cost and range are unavoidable challenges for battery-electric vehicles when compared with traditional vehicles," Kolodge said. "Automakers should focus as much on developing some overriding advantages instead of just working on minimizing the disadvantages. Consumers don't know what to ask for but there are all sorts of possibilities. The first automakers to solve this will have a huge advantage."
Editor's note: Automotive News reporter Pete Bigelow participated in the survey but was not involved in the writing and editing of this story.
-- Alexa St. John