Only 21% of Brits would consider purchasing a driverless car

As Volkswagen becomes the latest car brand to reveal its driverless plans, new research suggests it could be an uphill struggle to convince drivers to switch over.

Only 21% of British drivers would consider purchasing a fully-autonomous car in the future, according to a new study by Auto Trader.

Having polled 5,500 UK motorists, the study found 49% of car owners are uninterested in making the switch, with 45% stating they enjoy driving too much to consider buying a driverless car as a substitute.

There has been a surge of activity around fully-autonomous vehicles over recent months. Just yesterday (6 March) Volkswagen revealed Sedric (pictured above), its first fully-driverless prototype, claiming it to be a “look into the future of our brand.”

Honda, meanwhile, is working with Google to potentially integrate its self-driving ‘Waymo’ technology into new vehicles, while Apple recently stated in a letter to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) it was “investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems.”

However, despite these high-profile moves, only 21% of British drivers claim to ‘fully understand’ what a fully-autonomous vehicle is. And despite semi-autonomous features such as automatic breaks now being a regular part of modern car builds only 19% understand what semi-autonomous means.

According to Marc Palmer, brand director at Auto Trader, the announcements made by the likes of VW and Honda mean little if the benefits of driverless cars aren’t being properly communicated in their advertising.

He advises: “As with any new product the benefits will need to be clearly articulated. It’s about more than features; brands will need to explain why people should consider autonomous and what it will do for them (convenience, ease, safety etc.).

“The challenge is great because they need to roll back decades of set behavior, and because one of the main reasons for rejection is ‘driving enjoyment’ there’s an emotional barrier to overcome.”

In a recent interview with Marketing Week, Honda’s European communications manager Louise Furneaux compared driverless cars to the idea of drone delivery, in that it will take “years of legislation and social change” before it becomes a reality. She said “too many social unknowns” were halting Honda’s progress in bringing a model to market.