The biggest hurdle currently facing the autonomous vehicle industry is fear.
Both the fear of the unknown from consumers and the fear of liability. In today’s litigious society, companies are reticent to take risks. When planning for the future of autonomous vehicles, AV manufacturers must take into account the public’s fear of the unknown, while mitigating risk.
The fear of autonomous vehicles is very real due to the fact that a majority of the public has never seen an autonomous vehicle, let alone gone for a ride in one. Yet, a majority of the public has ridden in airport tram — which is driverless — without even batting an eye when boarding those driverless vehicles. We tend to fear what we do not know and do not fully comprehend.
In order to overcome these fears and uncertainties, autonomous vehicle manufacturers should partner with cities around the word to host autonomous vehicle demo days to introduce AVs directly to the public, allowing them to explore AV technology.
A 2016 University of Iowa Technology Demonstration Study points out that 80% of individuals prefer to learn about advanced driver technologies through a method that includes a demonstration. This creates an opportunity for autonomous vehicle manufacturers to partner with cities to host demonstrations.
At the autonomous vehicle demo days, the public should be encouraged to go for rides and ask any and all questions they may have about autonomy and the future of mobility. Autonomous vehicles are a new form of mobility which will make us safer, while greatly improving mobility for seniors and the disabled.
Seniors and the disabled will once again have their freedom back. However, there is a mounting concern that these groups will be unwilling to embrace the new technology. “Whether the growing population of older adults will fully realize the benefits remains a question subject to many moving parts” according to Paul Irving, Chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging.
Mr. Irving is correct. This is why it is crucial to engage the public by inviting them to demo the technology and ask questions.
Furthermore, cities have to actively prepare for a future with autonomous vehicles. When planning for the city of the future, cities have to take small steps now to achieve big goals later.
In Beverly Hills, we are actively engaged with autonomous vehicle startups and traditional car manufacturers on a daily basis. One of the City’s goals is to shut down Rodeo Drive and host an autonomous vehicle demo day, where the public can take part in experiencing the technology and envision a world where autonomous vehicles are the the most common form of transportation.
The public’s experience at the autonomous vehicle demo day will start to alleviate the fear of the unknown. While autonomous vehicle startups have been very open to the idea of demo days, traditional car manufacturers have not been so receptive.
This comes as a disappointment as traditional car manufacturers could use the opportunity to educate the public about the safety benefits of not only autonomous vehicles, but also advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which are currently available today.
According to Alex Epstein, Senior Director of Digital Strategy & Content at the National Safety Council, “The public does not have much of an awareness or understanding about what is really happening in vehicle automation, particularly safety automation.
There is confusion about some of the great technology that is available in production vehicles right now. For instance, does a particular vehicle have an ADAS feature such as Automatic Emergency Braking that might fully stop a vehicle on its own, or just slow it down to mitigate impact?”
An autonomous vehicle demo day would offer traditional car manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their advanced driver assistance systems while educating and preparing the public for the future.
“Getting a traditional car manufacturer to jump is the million dollar question” according to Jeffrey Spencer, Executive Director of the Sacramento Transportation Authority. Alex Epstein expands, “Right now, the downside is much bigger than the upside for traditional car manufacturers. The fully automated vehicles traditional car manufacturers might show are prototypes. Concept cars out for testing and refinement. Once the automated vehicles are brought to market, the manufacturers will be out showcasing them every chance they get.”
However, the fact that you cannot currently buy an autonomous vehicle or subscribe to an autonomous vehicle service should not stop traditional car manufacturers from preparing for the future and openly engaging with cities and the public. The upside is, in fact, bigger.
Only a handful of traditional car manufacturers will make the leap to becoming a mobility company. To make this leap, the public first and foremost has to like and trust the brand.
Today, the only truly trusted autonomous vehicle brand is Waymo (Waymo Team). Why? Waymo is an Alphabet (Google) company and their AVs are the most commonly associated vehicles with autonomy. Plus, Google is the 5th most reputable company in the world (2017) according to the Reputation Institute.
BMW is not far behind as the 12th most reputable company in the world (2017), but ask the general public if they have heard of a self-driving BMW or if they have seen one and the answer will be most likely no. Ask the public if they have heard of an self-driving Google car or if they have seen one, the answer most likely will be yes.
Ask the public who they trust with their safety in an autonomous vehicle, and the answer most likely will be Google. The public uses Google every single day and has grown to like and trust the brand. To get to the point in society where every autonomous vehicle brand is trusted by consumers, we have to eliminate the fear of the unknown.
Through outreach and education, individuals will start to overcome their fear of autonomous vehicles. The time to act is now, it’s time for every single autonomous vehicle manufacturer to partner with cities around the world to host autonomous vehicle demo days.
By overcoming the fear of the unknown (autonomous vehicles), we will usher in the great mobility revolution to the benefit of everyone.