Good news for Tesla: Consumers are ready for the future of self-driving cars, says study

Tesla’s Autopilot features frequently make headlines when the latest advancements are released to its all-electric fleet, and media attention from its and other groups’ successes looks to have resulted in a consumer base that’s excited for autonomous cars. A survey of more than 5,500 consumers and 280 auto executives by Capgemini, a consulting group, concluded that automotive consumers are ready for the future of self-driving cars, and 59% of them are even waiting with anticipation.

Capgemini’s study set out to understand more than just whether consumers were ready for self-driving advancements. It also sought to determine the level of understanding those same consumers had for what driverless cars would mean in the bigger picture and what their expectations were for the feature as it applied to their own lives. Positive indications were given in this area as well. Over 50% of study participants said they would trust autonomous cars to make sound decisions during unexpected situations and drop off or pick up non-driving close friends or family members. Nearly 50% would trust their cars to run an errand on their behalf.

According to Capgemini’s results, there’s even more good news for companies like Tesla and Waymo who are hedging their futures on autonomy’s success. Consumers are not only excited for what’s being promised, but they’re also willing to pay a premium for the feature. 56% of study participants said they’d be willing to pay a premium of up to 20% over their current budget for a self-driving car. Tesla’s current price for its Full Self-Driving software looks to be matched to this finding. Priced as a $6,000 option paired with a $39,000 Model 3 Standard Range Plus, Tesla’s customers are already willing to pay a 15% premium in anticipation of a feature that’s not yet available.

Results from Capgemini Research Institute, Self-driving vehicles consumer survey, December 2018- January 2019. | Image: Capgemini
Results from Capgemini Research Institute, Self-driving vehicles consumer survey, December 2018- January 2019. | Image: Capgemini

Another part of the study pointed to the importance of the consumer experience when it comes to self-driving cars. The prime benefit of the technology isn’t simply to designate a task from a human to a computer – it needs to have perks like convenience and fun added into the mix. “[Companies]…must develop an ecosystem of services to complement consumers’ experience while in a self-driving vehicle,” the study’s summary remarked. 57% of consumers in the survey said they planned to spend their time indulging in entertainment activities in their cars once self-driving was available. This is an area where Tesla can really make its mark.

Tesla ownership already offers several fun and entertaining activities. Internet browsing, music streaming, amusing Easter Eggs, and in-car games are already part of its user experience, and those features will likely be expanded much further once drivers no longer need to keep their attention on the road. Features like “Romance Mode” could be reimagined to include scenic drives, for instance, or TeslAtari could incorporate environmental cues into game play akin to “I Spy” or something similar.

Fully autonomous vehicles still have a long road ahead of both development and regulatory approvals, but knowing there’s a consumer market ready and willing to participate in the future the technology is promising is perhaps enough to keep things moving long enough for it to succeed.

Dacia J. Ferris: Accidental computer geek, fascinated by most history and the multiplanetary future on its way. Quite keen on the democratization of space. | It's pronounced day-sha, but I answer to almost any variation thereof.
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