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Canadian Consumers Don’t See Self-driving Vehicles Around the Next Corner

September 18, 2019

For many consumers, the future of the automotive industry conjures up visions of sleek, technologically advanced, zero-emission self-driving cars. While many vehicles on the market today are virtually zero-emission or have partial self-driving capabilities (we’re looking at you Cadillac), one feature that is still out of reach for the average consumer is a completely self-driving car (a vehicle that has no steering wheel or pedals, thus cannot be operated by a human). Despite the industry’s overall optimism and the consistent media buzz implying self-driving cars are not too far away, what are consumers’ expectations of this next technological advancement and when do they, realistically, see themselves in one of these vehicles?

According to research conducted by the experts at Phoenix Marketing International, most consumers who own a new car or intend to purchase one in the next two years don’t expect to see completely self-driving vehicles commercially available any time soon. A recent survey asked 893 Canadian new-vehicle owners/intenders what year they saw themselves being driven in a completely self-driving vehicle, and more than half of respondents said that they would never get in a vehicle like this (33% never, 19% don’t know).

Among those who do see themselves in a self-driving vehicle, only 10% expect it to happen in the next five years, while 24% expect it will take up to 10 years, and 37% think it will more likely be in the next 15 years. However, these low consumer expectations aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

“This consumer outlook data may take some of the pressure off legislators, tech companies and car manufacturers, who have been setting deadlines and timetables that may be overly ambitious and difficult to achieve,” says Dr. Stephen Popiel, Managing Director, Canada at Phoenix Marketing International.

“Consumer expectations actually give the industry some breathing room to develop and test the technologies required to make the transition to AV successful – only a small minority of consumers will be disappointed if autonomous vehicles aren’t available in the next few years.”

Dr. Popiel suggests that this consumer data also presents a way for tech and auto companies to concentrate on the luxury market. “For the industry, the fact that people who own or intend to purchase a luxury vehicle are more interested in self-driving vehicles than the average consumer may make the rollout of these vehicles simpler and more profitable.”

Regardless of the initial target market, the marketing communications for these vehicles will need to present the features and technologies in a way that speaks to consumers’ hearts and minds. Without a willing and eager consumer market, completely self-driving cars may go from the next significant advancement in the industry to just a flash in the pan.

893 surveys with a nationally representative sample of new vehicle owners (purchased in past 6 months) and new vehicle intenders (next 24 months) were collected between June 11 and June 27, 2019. Sample included both Luxury and Non-Luxury vehicle owners/intenders. Data was weighted to 2018 sales by segment and region.


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