Consumers' appetite for self driving vehicles lags the automotive industry's pace of investment in advanced vehicle technology, according to the 2019 Deloitte Global Automotive Consumer Study.

Consumer trust in autonomous vehicles (AVs) appears to be stalling, the study found.

In the US, half of the respondents did not believe AVs would be safe, nearly the same as 2018's 47%.

That was drastically different from 2017 when 74% voiced concerns about these vehicles' safety. Other markets were similar, with the share of consumers in China, Japan and South Korea who believed AVs would not be safe decreasing modestly, while Indian and German consumers both showed slight increases in their distrust.

"Autonomous vehicles have begun to enter the real world in pilot testing and have consequently encountered real world challenges," said Deloitte's Craig Giffi.

"A series of high-profile incidents may have contributed to the plateau in consumer trust in this year's study, but there will likely be a longer-term trend toward gradual acceptance.

"Even so, consumers have a much higher bar for acceptance of fully autonomous vehicles than for driver assistance safety technology. Along with today's consumer scepticism, the industry needs to thoughtfully factor into its plans the long capital investment cycle that will be required to bring flawless autonomous vehicle technology into the mainstream. This includes elusive business models for generating ROI and it's all combined with the likely increase in regulatory oversight that is on the horizon."

The study highlighted ride hailing irregularities. In 2017, 23% of US consumers used this option at least once a week and another 22% used it occasionally. The latest study found the percentage of regular users halved to 12% while the proportion of occasional users doubled to 46%.

Occasional ride hailers followed a similar path in India and China, though both countries saw substantial growth in the volume of occasional ride hailers, growing from 85 to 90% in India between 2017 and 2019; and 75 to 83% in China over the same period.

Younger consumers were more likely to question whether vehicle ownership was a necessity than older generations.

In Japan, where 60% of Generations Y/Z said ride hailing made them question whether they needed to own a vehicle, followed by 53% for Gen X and 45% of Baby Boomers. In the US, it was 46% of Gen Y/Z consumers, down 20 percentage points from 64% in 2017.

A majority (56%) of Americans were not interested in ridesharing services such as professional microbuses and other similar multi rider options while 47% of German consumers preferred to use their own vehicles daily. Using multiple modes of transportation in one trip was largely an occasional undertaking in the US where 39% of consumers reported they never combined different modes in a single trip. 

Interest in connected features such as traffic congestion tracking and road-safety alerts was universally high with 75% and 71% of US consumers seeking these features, respectively. Some 43% of US consumers said getting to their destination in the least amount of time was most important for mobility.

Less than half of surveyed US consumers (47%) valued connectivity but, in China (79%), and India (76%), consumers agreed increased connectivity would lead to substantial benefits versus 36% in Japan and 35% in Germany.

63% of US consumers were concerned about biometric data being captured via a connected vehicle and shared with external parties; 40% in China and Japan said the same.

Reluctance to pay more for options:  33% of US consumers would be unwilling to pay more for a connected vehicle, and a slightly larger portion (42%) would only pay up to US$500 more for this functionality. 40% of German consumers were willing to pay EUR600 (US$680) more. While 72% of of Japanese consumers (72%) were willing to pay extra, their upper limit was only JPY50,000 ($450).

"Connected, electrified, and autonomous vehicles offer tremendous value for society, but consumers may be slow to adopt these advanced technologies at scale until there is clear and undisputed improvement in safety, cost, convenience, and superior customer experience from a trusted brand"

"Connected, electrified, and autonomous vehicles offer tremendous value for society, but consumers may be slow to adopt these advanced technologies at scale until there is clear and undisputed improvement in safety, cost, convenience, and superior customer experience from a trusted brand," Deloitte noted.

In the US, the number of consumers who said they trust traditional OEMs to bring AV technology to market continued to slip, falling from 47% in 2018 to 39% in 2019. Even in Germany, where trust in OEMs has traditionally been fairly solid, this proportion dropped rapidly from 51% in 2017 to 33% in 2019.

With an ongoing lack of trust in the private sector, consumers were looking to governments to increase regulation. A majority in most countries indicated they wanted "significant oversight," including 56% in the US.

Hybrid electric vehicles still struggle for attention. Electrified powertrains are seen as viable options but electric vehicles (EVs) still face hurdles. In the US, 29% would prefer a nontraditional powertrain, up from 20% last year – including hybrid, battery or other alternative – for their next vehicle. A low fuel price coupled with relaxed emissions standards and fewer available rebates would likely keep EV adoption contained in the US.

Interest in Asian countries was far higher than in the US. China led with 65% of respondents preferring an alternative powertrain in their next vehicle, followed by Japan (59%), Korea (43%) and India (39%).

Adoption of EVs would likely play out differently in other regions. Stronger policies to address pollution concerns and foreign oil reliance in China might encourage faster EV adoption while European countries including Norway, Britain, France, and the Netherlands have announced plans to ban the sale of conventional gas- and diesel-fueled vehicles over the next two to three decades. While both regions may be poised for increased EV adoption, change would likely not be immediate. This was because traditional vehicles currently made up the bulk of cars on the road, and these cars had life expectancy of more than 10 years. In North America, adoption was likely to lag due to low fuel prices, relaxed emissions standards and a tighter tax rebate policy.

The study surveyed 25,000 consumers in September and October 2018 in 20 countries.