Study Finds Americans Ambivalent to Electric and Self-Driving Cars

Christian Wardlaw | Oct 28, 2020

New data from J.D. Power indicates that Americans remain ambivalent about electric vehicles (EVs) and self-driving cars.

The J.D. Power 2020 Q3 Mobility Confidence Index Study finds "an absence of substantive consumer interest in either," just as a surge of EVs is arriving and new advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) technologies are rolling out. Based on a 100-point scale, the Mobility Confidence Index for EVs decreased from 55 to 54, and for ADAS from 35 to 34, both on a 100-point scale*. Younger Americans have the most positive views of self-driving technologies and EVs.

J.D. Power 2020 Q3 Mobility Confidence Index Study

Car companies are investing significant sums of money in EV and ADAS technologies. But according to Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction & human-machine interface research at J.D. Power, automakers need to find ways to get people into EVs and experience ADAS and self-driving technologies to increase consideration. "Consumers remain skeptical because of their lack of first-hand experience with these technologies and lack of education about how and why these technologies work," Kolodge said in a statement.

Among the study's findings related to EVs:

  • 78% of consumers expect 300 miles of range or more from an EV, up from 75% a year ago
  • 45% of consumers are willing to wait 15 minutes or less to recharge an EV to 200 miles of range, up from 41% a year ago
  • 69% of consumers say they have no experience with EVs as a driver or passenger, and 62% of this group of people express very low or no intention of ever buying or leasing an EV
  • 31% of consumers say they know nothing at all about EVs

Among the study's findings related to ADAS and self-driving cars:

  • 14% of people who drive a personal vehicle would feel comfortable riding in a self-driving vehicle
  • 22% of people who take public transportation would feel the same way
  • 31% of industry experts say gaining consumer trust and acceptance is the leading challenge to the adoption of self-driving vehicles

Consumers who participated in the study say their top concerns with self-driving vehicles are technology failure, error, and hacking. The data finds 68% are worried about ADAS failure or error, while 56% claim a top concern is that a self-driving car will get hacked. According to J.D. Power, one survey respondent noted, "We've already had deaths by driverless vehicles. How many will it take before we realize that giving control to a computer programmed by a human, whose motivations we don't know, is probably not a great idea?"

More than 8,500 consumers and industry experts gave their opinions about battery-electric vehicles for the survey, and nearly 9,000 answered about self-driving vehicles. The survey was fielded in September 2020.

*All statistics in this article pertain to American consumer sentiment. The index also tracks Canadian sentiment, which is slightly higher for EVs and ADAS.

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