The term “auto” seems to be taking on a whole new identity in the automotive industry. Formed from ancient Greek, the prefix “auto” means “self.” The term “automobile” means we can move from place to place by ourselves. Now, as time has granted distinct evolution to our industry and to drivers worldwide, the term “auto” is more closely related to autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles.
So, what does that mean and what do consumers think about it? Automakers have already produced vehicles containing features that support driving assistance such as steering assistance, adaptive cruise control, braking assistance and hands-free partial driving. But what seems to be pushing consumers outside of their comfort zone with self-driving vehicles on the roads is the jump from driving support features to not needing a driver – seemingly – at all.
A call for clearer communication
A recent study released by Wards Auto with Informa tells us that for consumers to get more comfortable with the idea, and much less, the future reality of self-driving vehicles being on the roads, they need more information.1 In fact, the study leveraged a report by J.D Power that tells us consumers were less comfortable with self-driving vehicles in 2022 (index score of 39) than they were in 2021 (index score of 41).
The study goes on to show that what consumers really need to feel comfortable with self-driving vehicles has much less to do with the actual technology and more to do with communication. Clearly stated, it says that “some 56% of study respondents thought current driver technologies are the same as fully automated self-driving systems.”1 However closely related the two may seem, they’re not interchangeable. In fact, agreed-upon standards have been set by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to develop level classifications that “defines the degree of driving automation a car and its equipment may offer.”2
The driving automation spectrum ranges from level zero to level five, with levels zero to two considered to require a higher degree of driver interaction, and levels three to five requiring significantly less driver interaction. So, we get it – there’s a lot to take in and so much to know when acquainting ourselves with the idea of letting go of control behind the wheel. Get a better look at the breakdown of each autonomous driving level provided by J.D. Power here.
Consumers have a couple of requests
Even with clear and unified communication from automakers around just how self-driving a vehicle is when it’s released, consumers also say they’d feel even better if they had a few more things. A 2022 report released by Pew Research explained that consumers would find driverless passenger vehicles “more acceptable” if they knew more about their driving and accident history and required a few identifiers.3
However, you get into the area of delivery vehicles, public transportation, taxis and 18-wheelers, and it’s an entirely different ballgame. The report by Pew Research shows that about a quarter of U.S. adults aren’t sure if they oppose or favor driverless passenger vehicles for those purposes, and 34 to 42 percent favor them with all the above, except 18-wheelers. That’s much higher than the 21 percent of U.S. adults mentioned in the report who say they’d be comfortable sharing the road with driverless cars.3
While consumers are still making up their minds, the reality is that autonomous vehicles are where we’re headed as an industry. However, what is within our control now as dealers and trusted lenders is to know the ins and outs of vehicle evolution so we can continue to help drivers get where they want to go – assisted, automated, or otherwise!
If you are one of our current dealer partners and ever have questions or concerns about an application, chat with us directly through the DealerPortal or call our Dealer Operations Group at 1-855-4EXETER (855-439-3837). To inquire about working with Exeter, click here.
Exeter Finance LLC is a non-prime auto finance company headquartered in Irving, Texas. The company partners with franchised and independent auto dealers throughout the country to make car ownership a reality for consumers. For more information, call our Dealer Operations Group at 1-855-4EXETER (855-439-3837).