Driver preferences for autonomy and safety features vary in global survey

In a new survey of drivers from five different countries, the market research firm IHS Markit found a variety of preferences on vehicle technology features and the willingness to pay for them.

The survey polled 5,000 vehicle owners in the major automotive markets of Canada, China, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All respondents indicated that they intend to purchase a new vehicle within three years. IHS Markit says this is its fifth annual study on driver preferences.

Blind spot detection was the most desired feature, as it was the top choice among all ages and nations. American drivers indicated that they would pay the highest sum for this technology, with the average U.S. respondent saying they would be willing to pay $488 for blind spot detection.

The average British driver was willing to pay $364 for blind spot detection. This was followed by an average willingness to pay $356 for the technology in Germany, $309 in China, and $258 in Canada.

"In terms of ADAS [advanced driver assistance systems] safety features like automatic emergency braking and blind spot detection, consumers wanted to see these features standard across the board," said Colin Bird, co-author of the report and a senior automotive technology analyst at IHS Markit. "There is a large subset of consumers who are willing to pay for full autonomy features, demonstrating that consumers see this more as a value-add rather than a necessary safety component, at least for now."

An autopilot system to assist with highway driving was another popular feature among all respondents, with U.S. drivers willing to pay the most for it at an average of $538. German drivers were willing to pay an average of $431 for the technology, followed by Chinese drivers at $383, U.K. drivers at $355, and Canadian drivers at $255.

Full autonomy was the least desired feature among all technologies included in the survey, with just 44 percent of respondents saying they would like to see it in their next vehicle. However, 72 percent of Chinese respondents and just over half of U.S. respondents indicated that full autonomy would be a desired feature on their next vehicle.

In addition, respondents ranked full autonomy as the feature they would be willing to pay the most for. On average, German drivers said they would pay $1,016 more for this technology, followed by $826 among U.K. drivers, $780 among American drivers, $618 among Canadian drivers, and $555 among Chinese drivers.

Younger drivers were most likely to be interested in full autonomy, with 61 percent of those identified as millennials or Generation Z saying they would like to have the feature on their next vehicle. Generation X, baby boomers, and the "swing generation" respondents were significantly less likely to favor full autonomy.

Drivers were more likely to say they would favor self-driving features in their vehicle if they were linked to auto insurance rates to help bring these costs down. Chinese respondents were most likely to say they would be open to self-driving features if they were associated with auto insurance rates, with 70 percent in favor. German drivers were least likely to be swayed by this incentive, with only 32 percent saying they it would impact their decision.

Most respondents cited driving alone as their main mode of transportation, followed by walking and public transit. Ridesharing and car sharing was most prominent in China, where 42 percent of respondents said they have used ridesharing and 16 percent said they have used a car sharing service within the past year.

"Among new car intenders, ride-hailing services aren't used as often as a daily commuting option. Instead, the research found that ride-hailing is used more often for weekend trips, errands, and vacations," said Bird. "Interestingly, new car intenders are more likely to be drivers for hailing service companies like Uber and DiDi than they are to be passengers. This is particularly the case in the U.K., Germany, and Canada, which suggests there could be a lucrative sales model in these markets for automakers."

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