Driverless cars are on the road. Take a ride down US 101 in San Francisco and you may see one. Uber also announced that soon a driverless car might be dispatched to pick up passengers in the Pittsburgh market as it assesses the feasibility of swapping drivers with software. Automotive manufacturers are turning cars into software platforms, too, as Amazon’s Alexa will soon unlock the doors of a consumer’s brand new BMW, and as we profiled recently in an interview with Jim Buczkowski, Ford’s Director of Electrical and Electronics Systems. Ford cars will soon be able to find the cheapest gas station and order a burger and fries to go with just the sound of the driver’s voice.
But how important is all of this tech to the everyday consumer? Are they wowed with what they see – and willing to pay for it? Or do they say, whoa, slow down, not so fast, there are more important things than a driver being able to tap out emails on her tablet while careening down the highway at 60 mph.
The experts say the latter. Consumer interest may be piqued, but their buying decisions – not so much. In fact, interest in hot new technology such as blind spot warning devices or self-parking capabilities, may not always influence purchases in the car technology world.
What do they want and value instead? Security and familiarity.
If that sounds like what they are looking for in mobile payments innovation, you’re spot on, too. Whiz bang may play in the tech boardrooms, but on the Main Streets, it remains less of a sell.
Technology market research and consulting firm TECHnalysis Research released results of a survey of a thousand U.S. consumers, each of whom currently owns an automobile but is planning to spring for a new one in the next one to two years. And what it found was a mixed bag.
Yes, there was interest in adding new tech accessories to consumers’ next purchases, but that interest was not hard and fast across the board and not enough to drive the sale. In the survey, each respondent ranked 12 characteristics — from gas mileage to brand familiarity, appearance and type, and price and performance —then compared them between the vehicle they currently own and the one they are looking to buy in the near future. The high-tech features fell to the bottom of the list.
Respondents even seemed content with moderate and humble technology add-ons for their next cars. Surprisingly, even Wi-Fi connectivity ranked lower than one might expect.
Safety, on the other hand, was almost off the charts as a necessary feature. Blind spot warning and smart front and rear cameras connected to emergency brake systems were among the most highly ranked technology enhancements.
When it came to autonomous features versus electric or hybrid options, the latter was more appealing to respondents in every age and gender bracket. It’s tough to find charging stations in small-town USA.
It seems that, just as with mobile payments, the automobile industry cannot count on technology alone as a selling point. Even as Tesla adds more battery life and power to its next new vehicle, or a Chinese startup turns the key on a new electric car, or your car can parallel park all by itself, most consumers don’t care enough to fork over extra money for any of these slick technology additions.