Consumer sentiment with regards to self-driving and electric vehicles is one of uncertainty, according to the J.D. Power 2019 Mobility Confidence Index Study. On a 100-point scale, self-driving vehicles scored 36 points and battery-electric vehicles scored 55 points respectively on the Mobility Confidence Index.

“Out of the box, these scores are not encouraging. As automakers head down the developmental road to self-driving vehicles and greater electrification, it’s important to know if consumers are on the same road, and headed in the same direction,” said J. D. Power executive director of driver interaction & human interface research, Kristin Kolodge.

“That doesn’t seem to be the case right now. Manufacturers need to learn where consumers are in terms of comprehending and accepting new mobility technologies—and what needs to be done,” Kolodge said. Sentiment score is split into three categories – 0-40 points for low, 41-60 points for neutral and 61-100 points for positive. 5,749 consumers were surveyed on self-driving vehicles, and 5,270 on battery EVs.

From these categories, confidence in autonomous vehicles was deemed as low, where the attributes of self-driving vehicles comprised of 34 points for comfort about riding in a self-driving vehicle, and 35 points for comfort about being on the road with others in a self-driving vehicle.

Perfecting autonomous driving technology was more challenging than intially thought, the report quoted industry experts as saying. The importance of marketing self-driving technologies to customers in order to build understanding, trust and acceptance was also recognised, and seen as an industry-wide challenge.

The greatest concerns regarding self-driving technologies include technology failures, hacking and liability, the report noted. Although consumers are reportedly more hopeful than worried (65% vs 34%) on the overall benefit of technology in their lives, 39% aren’t excited about any self-driving technology, including delivery services, public transit, taxi/ride-hailing service and personal vehicles.

The report also cited ‘serious concerns’ with the development of self-driving vehicles, where consumers are most worried about technical failures and errors (71%), the risk of a vehicle being hacked (57%) and legal liability resulting from a collision (55%).

The majority of respondents also admit to having little to no knowledge regarding self-driving vehicles, the report said. Almost three-quarters (71%) of consumers are more likely to by or lease an autonomous vehicle if they are knowledgeable about them, however the consideration drops to 25% for those who stated that they know nothing at all about self-driving vehicles.

Perceptions of the safety of autonomous vehicles differ according to age and level of knowledge, the report said. Younger generations are more confident that safety of self-driving cars will improve – comprising 52% of Gen-Z and 45% of Gen-Y – while 49% of Baby Boomers think safety will be worse than it is in the present. Consumers who say they are knowledgeable about self-driving vehicles believe the technology will improve traffic safety.

As for consumer sentiment on battery-electric vehicles, this category scored an overall Mobility Confidence Index of 55 points, classified as neutral. The likelihood of purchasing an EV was the lowest-scoring attribute (39%), reliability of EVs compared to internal-combustion engined vehicles (49%), and the ability to stay within budget for EVs compared to petrol, diesel or hybrid vehicles (55%). Most consumers across all surveyed age groups believed EVs offer positive environmental effects.

In terms of battery EVs’ advantages and disadvantages, 61% of respondents said they are better for the environment and 48% believed that costs of charging will be advantageous compared to the costs of refuelling with petrol. Range anxiety still lingers, however; 64% are concerned with the avilability of charging stations, while 59% are concerned about range.

77% of respondents expect EVs to have a range of 300 miles (480 km) or more, and 74% are willing to wait just 30 minutes or less for a charge to give 320 km of range. Prior experience also played a part; 68% of those surveyed have no experience with battery-electric vehicles, while of those who have owned or leased BEVs before, 75% would consider buying a similar vehicle again. Of those who have never been in EVs, just 40% said they would considering buying or leasing one,while 78% said tax subsidies or credits would make part of their purchasing decisions.