TodayApril 15, 2022

Tesla most trusted brand for Autonomous Driving

Ahhh, Tesla, the most hated – by some – car company, has won the most trusted brand to be fully autonomous by consumers in an Auto Pacific survey. 

Part of the charm of Tesla to its customers is that it is not a traditional car company. It operates somewhere between a high-tech company and an Alta-Gioielleria collection. If you look at Tesla’s stock price, it is more in line with Waymo and Apple and LVMH Moët Hennessy than it is with any legend car company. 

With the advent of fully-autonomous vehicles on the way, who will win the race first to develop the most trusted system? As part of AutoPacific’s recent study gauging consumer perception on fully-autonomous vehicle technology, we asked respondents about their trust in 56 brands, both automakers and popular technology companies alike. 

Tesla autonomous vehicles
Tesla autonomous vehicles

From Apple to Volvo, consumers across all age brackets picked who they would trust the most and the least when developing safe and reliable fully-autonomous vehicles.

While automakers, legacy and startups, and even a few technology companies promise appealing, cutting-edge fully-autonomous vehicles, Auto Pacific contends that the adoption pace may stall this technology’s arrival if the consumer isn’t entirely on board. 

While Auto Pacific has a valid point, consumers are becoming used to certain technologies autonomous vehicles will use. Listed as safety technologies, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warnings are becoming standard in many vehicles and giving consumers the first taste of technology. 

Younger Generations Are More Welcoming to Autonomous Vehicles

What age group is the most eager to embrace fully-autonomous vehicle technology? Expectedly, 22% of younger shoppers ages 30 to 39 want AVs as soon as possible, followed by 14% of shoppers ages 18 to 29. The eagerness begins to drop as the age brackets climb, with just 3% of polled consumers ages 60 and up wanting it ASAP. 

The common theme displayed across all polled age brackets is that most consumers would prefer to wait until a proven track record of safe and or reliable fully-autonomous vehicle technology is proven. The most reluctant to ever have a taste for fully-autonomous vehicle technology? Drivers aged 60 and up.

While most consumers, regardless of age bracket, are more comfortable waiting a bit longer for fully autonomous vehicles. That doesn’t mean automakers and technology companies should delay getting the ball rolling. 

At this time, there are no fully autonomous or “self-driving” vehicles on sale today. GM, Ford, Tesla, and Toyota currently offer more comprehensive ADAS suites that legally allow for Level 2 semi-autonomous hands-free driving. These vehicles can only be driven on marked highways in ideal, safe conditions required by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration or NHTSA. Even then, a driver’s eyes and attention must be kept on the road when these hands-free systems are activated and in use). 

Consumers trust the following brands the most to develop safe, reliable fully-autonomous vehicles: Tesla, Toyota, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Apple, Honda, Audi, Subaru, and Cadillac.

Consumer Trust Sits Highest With Tesla, Toyota, and BMW 

With 32% of consumers, Tesla claims the crown for being the most trusted brand for developing safe and reliable fully-autonomous vehicles. Tesla has created “buzz” surrounding the automaker’s Full-Self Driving driver assistance tech. Tesla owners can sign up as volunteers and help demo the Level 2 semi-autonomous hands-free capability for Tesla’s Research and development efforts. 

Just like with electric cars, Tesla started early and stayed passionate. In 2016, Tesla blogged on their site, “All Tesla Cars Being Produced Now Have Full Self-Driving Hardware.” At the same time, Cadillac was driving its autonomous vehicle around the streets of San Francisco. 

Second place is Toyota, with 19% of consumers picking the brand as their most trusted for the future of autonomous driving. Perhaps not surprisingly, the younger the consumer, the more who trust Tesla, while the older the consumer, the higher the trust swings for Toyota. In March, Toyota started rolling out its first Level 2 semi-autonomous hands-free driving aid. The first roll-out will be for the hydrogen-powered Mirai’s 2022 model year. 

18% of consumers picked BMW, 16% Chevrolet, and 14% picked Ford – with the latter two automakers currently offering Level 2 semi-autonomous hands-free highway assists on various models in their lineups. 

Like Tesla, younger consumers are substantially more likely to trust BMW (42% of consumers ages 18 to 39) than those who trust Chevrolet and Ford (just 25% and 16%). 

Interestingly, despite not having a vehicle of its own on sale (yet), 13% of consumers trust Apple to develop safe and reliable fully-autonomous vehicles. While it didn’t earn a spot in the top ten list above, 5% of consumers did pick Sony as a most-trusted brand.

Honda, Audi, Subaru, and Cadillac make up the remaining four of the top ten most trusted automakers to develop safe and reliable fully-autonomous vehicles. 

Cadillac Super Cruise

Cadillac is the only automaker in group four to currently offer a Level 2 semi-autonomous hands-free highway driving aid, Super Cruise, which is available on select CT6, CT4, CT5, Escalade, and XT6 models. The all-electric LYRIQ crossover is due for the 2023 model year.

The question isn’t whether autonomous vehicles will make their way onto public streets; they will. Will the legend car companies be overtaken by tech companies creating autonomous vehicles? We’ve already seen what happens when mainstream companies underestimate a new company. Waymo and Apple have miles of self-driving expertise. More than electric cars, autonomous vehicles are their passion. 

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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