Study: Overall Trust of Autonomous Vehicles Declines, and No One Cares What Generation X Thinks

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
study overall trust of autonomous vehicles declines and no one cares what

Poor Generation X. Isolated, ignored and cynical, they brought us great music in the early-to-mid 1990s, but their opinion on self-driving cars and autonomous safety features just isn’t important.

At least, that’s the feeling you get while reading the results of J.D. Power’s U.S. Tech Choice Study. The company polled 8,500 Americans who bought a vehicle during the past five years, asking them how they felt about the emerging technology.

Naturally, large generation gaps appeared, not the least of which was the elimination of Gen Xers in favor of the opinions of Boomers, Generation Y and Z. So, how does the opinions of the largest car-buying cohort compare to that of the newest?

Not surprisingly, the older drivers showed much less interest in this newfangled technology. After all, this is the generation that grew up learning how to adjust carburetors when “See the U.S.A. in a Chevrolet” was a popular tagline. (Which isn’t to say that some don’t welcome new advents in, say, driver’s assistance technology.)

Still, the key takeaway from the study seems to lie in the opinions of Generation Z — those born between 1995 and 2004. Among this group, compared to last year’s survey, 11 percent more Gen Z participants said they “definitely would not” trust self-driving technology. 23 percent said they would “probably” not trust the technology.

The oldest cohort, Pre-Boomers (those born before 1946) saw distrust of autonomous cars grow by 9 percent, while a full 81 percent of the Baby Boom generation (born between 1946 and 1964) fell into the “definitely” or “probably” categories. That shows a growth in wariness compared to last year. Generation Y, consisting of those born between 1977 and 1994, was the only group to see acceptance of the technology grow compared to last year.

“In most cases, as technology concepts get closer to becoming reality, consumer curiosity and acceptance increase,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction and HMI research at J.D. Power. “With autonomous vehicles, we see a pattern where trust drives interest in the technology and right now, the level of trust is declining.”

Of course, not every member of Generation Z is even old enough to drive, and it’s quite possible that, as they learn more and become more familiar with existing automotive technologies (including semi-autonomous driver’s aids), their individual opinions could eventually mirror that of Generation Y.

Older drivers could also soften their stance towards autonomy once they own a vehicle with, say, adaptive cruise control or a lane-holding feature. Familiarity with the technology would breed trust, assuming the experience is a positive one.

Still, there seems to be quite a difference between the distrust of self-driving cars and acceptance of existing safety features. Collision avoidance systems and other technology package goodies play a big part in new car desire, the study found. When looking at purchasing intent — those who say that they want a certain feature before learning the price — the study found that Boomers fall far behind the youngest generations in wanting the latest tech.

A predictive vehicle assistant — a system that predicts a driver’s needs while controlling vehicle functions — generated interest in only 12 percent of Boomer buyers, while 53 percent of Generations Y and Z buyers expressed a desire to own such a feature. The study found similar results for options such as a self-parking feature, or a limited self-driving mode.

After having their hands on the tiller of the economy so long, it seems that Boomers are, literally, not ready to let go of the wheel.

When Generation Z members were asked about individual features, the survey respondents showed a strong desire to have high-tech convenience and autonomous safety gear in their next vehicle — and pay for it, if need be. A total of 31 percent of respondents said they would pay $700 to add automatic emergency steering to a vehicle’s soon-to-be-mandatory automatic emergency braking.

Another 58 percent would pay $250 for smart key technology in their next vehicle.

To automakers, whether or not a certain generation wants a certain feature is of little consequence. As technology proliferates throughout the market, the nature of competition says that what matters most is offering a better crop of features than those offered by automotive rivals, regardless of the segment.

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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  • OldManPants OldManPants on Apr 23, 2017

    "a system that predicts a driver’s needs while controlling vehicle functions" How's the bladder sensor attach or don't I want to know?

  • Boxerman Boxerman on Apr 24, 2017

    Safer is a broad term. Safer than who, the average inatentive idiot in a minivan with bald tires. Yeah maybe that one is safer in a robo car. Persoanlly I have close to zero fear of dying or being in a road accident while driving. I have personally avoided plenty. teh accident or death rate is based on an average. If youre int he top 25% of drivers what relevance is stat or tech that applied tot he bottom 25%. I alkso dont nwat to die like sheep. You can tell me airlines are as safe as you want, when it goes wrong your suffed in tube bleating like a sheep hoping someone up front deals with it. I would much rather be at the controlls myself, trying to save myself. Now if I lived in Fl there the roads are straight well marked and weather not an issue, then autonomous tech maybe could take me from one place to another. I would probably like it too, instead of dealing with the slow plodding traffic on I95 during rush hour. Not as though driving there has any entertainment But in the Ne where i live, I cant imagine an autonomous car dealing with potholes, poorly marked signs, snow covering sensors, snow traction and whole host of ills. Nor whould I trust a machine in such circumstances. The danger is in otehrs becomign reliant on the imperfect the machine, and having unpredicatble humans driving otehr cars at the same time. The bigger danger still is all those people relying on the machine, and the machine relying on human being to be able to take over suddenly after months of inattention. Hows that going to work out. So sure if there were a 100% accurate car that could take me to work, or home after dinner and drinks I would have one. But such a machine is way way int he future, unless you live in the southwest or parts of the south where roads and conditions are near perfect. In otehr circusntances these auto cars will be a danger to the resat of us. Also hows it going to tow my race car, or reverse the boat down the ramp. I also ride a motorcycle, and what I have noticed is the standard of inattentiveness has risen exponetialy. People are relying on the car to beep at them, and are usualy doing somethign else. Part of the fault lays with the cars, because they new ones are so safe and isolated that people dont fear real harm. lastly had a new lincoln rent car. Its was plush smooth and great, except. My 80 yo mother commented that they have removed driving from the equation, the wheel and pedals meerly telling the machine where you want to go, so at that level of blandness, might as well have athe applance do it all. in the end theere ate two reasons why why this tech is being pushed. well gov loves rules, they love control and ideally love to be able to keep tabs we all are and going. But the real push is that every manufactuerer makes good cars these days so the real attempt to differentiate is with gizmos and features. First it was sunfroofs which no one uses, now it vibrating seats. Sadly you cant buy the good tech without gettign all the nanies. Cant tell you how many cars I didnt buy because you couldnt turn of one system or another. This tech, in the end as imperfect as it is, it will be rammed down our throats, just like proximity keys and button starters, and auto stop start. if it were defeatble and cars still drove great, that woudl be choice. But in the days where most "sportscars" are really just a heavy fast Gt car, with zero steering feel or feedback the end is nigh. Maybe a few manufacturers will serve the niche of drivers cars. But for the rest they are already transport modules and most would prefer they require nothing of the owner. the dumbing down of the human proceeds apace.

  • Analoggrotto A human who choses Tesla is telling the world that they are more intelligent than 98.5% of the remaining population. The Homo sapiens genome is evolving to the next species and it is starting with TESLA customers. We are the future, we are the galaxy, we will succeed all of humanity.
  • Alan The Prado shouldn't have the Landcruiser name attached. It isn't a Landcruiser as much as a Tacoma or 4 Runner or a FJ Cruiser. Toyota have used the Landcruiser name as a marketing exercise for years. In Australia the RAV4 even had Landcruiser attached years ago! The Toyota Landcruiser is the Landcruiser, not a tarted up Tacoma wagon.Here a GX Prado cost about $61k before on roads, this is about $41k USD. This is a 2.8 diesel 4x4 with all the off road tricky stuff, plus AC, power windows, etc. I'm wondering if Toyota will perform the Nissan Armada treatment on it and debase the Prado. The Patrol here is actually as capable and possibly more capable than the Landcruiser off road (according to some reviews). The Armada was 'muricanised and the off road ability was reduced a lot. Who ever heard of a 2 wheel drive Patrol.Does the US need the Prado? Why not. Another option to choose from built by Toyota that is overpriced and uses old tech.My sister had a Prado Grande, I didn't think much of it. It was narrow inside and not that comfortable. Her Grand Cherokee was more comfortable and now her Toureg is even more comfortable, but you can still feel the road in the seat of your pants and ears.
  • Jeffrey No tis vehicle doen't need to come to America. The market if flooded in this segment what we need are fun affordable vehicles.
  • Nrd515 I don't really see the point of annual inspections, especially when the car is under 3 years (warranty) old. Inspections should be safety related, ONLY, none of the nonsensical CA ARB rules that end up being something like, "Your air intake doesn't have an ARB sticker on it, so you have to remove it and buy one just like it that does have the ARB sticker on it!". If the car or whatever isn't puking smoke out of it, and it doesn't make your eyes water, like an old Chevy Bel-Air I was behind on Wed did, it's fine. I was stuck in traffic behind that old car, and wow, the gasoline smell was super potent. It was in nice shape, but man, it was choking me. I was amused by the 80 something old guy driving it, he even had a hat with a feather in it, THE sign of someone you don't want to be driving anywhere near you.
  • Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg