When it comes to developing self-driving cars, the technological elements may not be the hard part. Even creating ICs and software that get all of the electro-mechanical components to play nicely together likely won’t be the toughest obstacle to overcome.
According to a new study conducted by the research firm Gartner, the linchpin in autonomous vehicle adoption and success in the marketplace will be consumer and social acceptance.
Gartner, which expects to see multiple launches of autonomous vehicles around 2020—with the full impact of autonomous vehicle technology on society and the economy starting to emerge in 2025—recently conducted an online survey that polled 1,519 people in the U.S. and Germany. It found that 55% of respondents will not consider riding in a fully autonomous vehicle, while 71% may consider riding in a partially autonomous vehicle.
Concerns around technology failures and security are key reasons why many consumers are cautious about fully autonomous vehicles, according to the company. “Fear of autonomous vehicles getting confused by unexpected situations, safety concerns around equipment and system failures, and vehicle and system security are top concerns around using fully autonomous vehicles,” explained Mike Ramsey, research director at Gartner.
Survey respondents agreed that fully autonomous vehicles do offer many advantages, including improved fuel economy and a reduced number and severity of crashes. Additional benefits they identified include having a safe transportation option when drivers are tired and using travel time for entertainment and work.
The survey found that consumers who currently embrace on-demand car services are more likely to ride in and purchase partially and fully autonomous vehicles. “This signifies that these more evolved users of transportation methods are more open toward the concept of autonomous cars,” said Ramsey.
Gartner has found that the percentage of people who used a car service such as Uber in the past 12 months rose to 23%, up from 19% in a similar survey conducted two years earlier. However, results of the study suggest that the transition to dropping a personally owned vehicle will be challenging outside of dense urban areas.
For automobile owners surveyed with a driveway or easily accessed parking, nearly half of the respondents said they would not consider giving up their own vehicle, even if they saved 75% over the cost of owning their own car. The ability to leave at any moment is the most cited reason for not replacing personal vehicles with on-demand car services. Trust and personal safety are also top concerns.
These viewpoints notwithstanding—and in addition to the dozens of companies currently developing sensors and other technologies required to enable vehicles to detect and understand their surroundings—Gartner reported that as of mid-2017, more than 46 companies are building artificial intelligence (AI)-based software to control an autonomous vehicle and make it operate in the world.