By on May 9, 2017

autonomous testing tesla

While many would argue that piloting your own vehicle is a key part of freedom and enjoyment of life, there are times when we really wish our vehicle could take us home from the bar. Cabs are expensive, Uber is potentially unavailable, and transit, well… it would have to be very good transit.

While vehicles with fully autonomous Level 5 driving modes remain out of reach, automakers are busy trying to wrestle that steering wheel from your hands. Already, most vehicles employ some level of mild self-driving abilities, whether it’s keeping your crossover between the lines, braking automatically to avoid that driver who’s allergic to signalling, or parallel parking itself. It’s nice to have some help sometimes.

However, just because people like protection on the road doesn’t mean they’re not also protective of their wallets. What is your average car buyer willing to pay for these conveniences?

According to a recent study uncovered by CNET, everyone has a price. One thing becomes clear when reading the results — fully autonomous driving remains a polarizing issue, with many respondents not willing to pay a cent for the technology. Others would rob a bank for the ability to turn over the driving responsibility to their car.

The study makes a point of covering the opinions of a diverse cross-section of Americans, closely aligning it with the existing mean for gender, income, age and ethnicity. Having delved deeply into past surveys on the subject, the study’s architects posed a number of questions. Among them, what dollar figure would participants be willing to pay to add semi-autonomous technology to a car (safety aids like automatic braking) or full autonomy.

The results revealed “a significant share of the sample is willing to pay above $10,000 for full automation technology while many are not willing to pay any positive amount for the technology.” On average, Americans said they’d be willing to pay about $3,500 for partial automation and about $4,900 for full automation.

That higher figure is considerably less than the results of a 2016 survey in Austin, Texas, which found participants willing to pay $7,253 for fully self-driving technology. People in Austin must really enjoy relaxing — or avoiding insurance claims.

As for self-driving enthusiasm, automakers had better take note. The countrywide study found people “split approximately evenly between high, modest and no demand” for the technology, which signals to automakers that buyers aren’t clamoring en masse to get their hands on it. At least, not yet. The study found many people remain unfamiliar with the newfound gadgetry, and could change their minds after learning more about it.

[Image: Tesla]

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21 Comments on “Here’s What the Average Buyer is Willing to Pay to Avoid Doing All the Driving...”

  • avatar

    I’m surprised people are willing to pay that much. Were the people surveyed asked to factor in the value to them of not being stuck in traffic jams caused by other drivers running into things and each other? Or the value of not having the cost and grief of traffic crashes part of their lives? Or, on the other hand, presumably cheaper insurance if the chances of your car being in a crash are virtually eliminated?

    These questions would substantially affect the outcome. Insurance itself could easily be $1000 per year different.

  • avatar

    Give me level five when I get too old to keep my license. At that point, I will want to get into the car, issue the voice command, “Grocery store,” and sit passively while the car opens the garage door, drives to the store and parks itself. After I have loaded my groceries, the command, “Home,” should take me back to the garage again.

    Until then, I want only those aids that do what I would do better than I can do it myself. The best examples are ABS and ESC. ABS lets me hold the brakes on the ragged edge of adhesion and ESC lets me get closer to the edge of the handling envelope without killing myself. Regardless of price, I absolutely do not want any “safety” system that overrides my inputs. If I decide to maintain speed and steer around an obstacle, I don’t want the car to brake hard instead.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      At that level of technology, it’s easier to buy the groceries online and have the “store’s” (warehouse, really) autonomous delivery van drop the order off at your door.

  • avatar

    I’m willing to pay $0.

    However, I’d gladly void my warranty to buy a service or software change that removes this ability. If they can also remove the hardware (sensors, etc) even better.

    • 0 avatar

      Probably if you have an at-fault accident that would not have happened with the safety systems active, your insurance will be void. Bankruptcy for putting someone in a wheelchair, maybe yourself. Do you think this can’t happen to you, or are you much concerned about that other person?

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve never had a speeding ticket or moving violation. So partly, I think my driving style is statistically less likely to have me be at fault in the even of an accident. If that means I have to drive like a grandpa, so be it.

        Partly, I think these aids are treating the symptom, not the larger part of the cause: mobile devices. Since I dont use my phone when I drive (off, in the center console) and set and forget the music before I move, I don’t have the symptoms caused by devices. There is also just terrible driving training here, but that’s a more complex problem to solve because it involves funding and politicians…..bleh.

        Also partly, I’m ok with paying more for options that aren’t necessary: performance, comfort, whatever. Charging for required safety stuff has always struck me as absurd. If everyone has to build into the vehicle, then its not a point of competition.

        I can’t answer your question about bankruptcy off hand. I’d have to read my policy. I have max insurance limits for collision and comprehensive for both vehicles…7 figure liability. Always have, always will. I cant speak for anyone who would hit me and their insurance or finance levels, but in theory, doing that is to protect against my own personal bankruptcy. Its the most expensive part of ongoing costs of running vehicles.

        Mostly, I think these are not good solutions to the problem and if everyone should refuse to pay for them.

  • avatar

    First off, “Average” is used way incorrectly here. If half your people are “0”, and half your people are “7000-10000”, the correct way to do it would be to give the average of people willing to pay, or more preferable, breaking it down into percentiles. Averaging a bunch of “0s” which are really “NULLS” (or non-buyers) gives you a faulty average for decision making.

    Now that the math problem is out of the way, I’d definitely be one of those people paying over $10k. I’m even race cars and LOVE driving…

    But if I can have my truck auto-drive me 5 hours to the race track where I can race my car for 4 hours and then auto drive me back, I’ll be much happier than driving 10 hours for 4 hours on the track.

    I’ll use the 500 extra hours a year driving to work to do more productive things, like making the $10,000 to pay for it, and making the rest of my life easier. Heck, if I could make just $10 an hour, thats $50,000 over 10 years, enough to pay for most new cars even WITH an extra $10k in self driving add-ons!

    I’d go on exciting trips. I only get 2 weeks vacation, so I’d leave at 6 PM on a friday with my family and drive 12 hours through the night, arriving at 6 AM well rested and ready to do a days activities. That in effect frees up 10+ Bonus vacation days each year. WOW is that worth it? I think so.

    My family would be happier, I’d be happier, We’d get to experience more things, make more money… seems like a whole lot of win… for just $10k?

    I mean heck, $10K is a lot of money, but thats literally about 50 FREE BONUS DAYS in your life. over 10 years, thats 500 FREE DAYS, more than a year extra added to your life.

    Man I’ll pay $10k for more than a year of free time added to my life.. .are you kidding me??

    So I love driving, and I’ll still drive something special when I want to experience driving, but sitting in traffic and driving 14 hour trips are not what I would call “loving driving”. Give me the full autonomy and I’ll have a better life at virtually any price.

    • 0 avatar


      Having a “family” car with this ability for commuting, trips, etc. and a fun car for weekends, track, etc seems like the best of both worlds to me.

      I’m seriously skeptical of the idea that insurance rates or regulations will make non autonomous cars cost prohibitive at any point in our life time. There is simply no precedent for a safety feature causing a large increase in rates or of old cars being forced off the road for not meeting regulations. My 1960 Cadillac has no seatbelts or safety equipment of any kind, but if I chose to make it my daily driver, it would be a similar cost to insure as my current daily, despite being worth more. Nor is anyone telling me I’m not allowed to drive it. I don’t see any difference with an autonomous car.

  • avatar

    Autonomous cars are inevitable.

    Eventually insurance companies will increase rates on any car that can be operated in non-autonomous mode.

    Finally, government will require autonomous mode driving with the possible exception of emergencies.

    I’m not saying I like any of these predictions, but we have a habit of throwing away freedom for a small perceived increase in security.

    • 0 avatar

      40000 deaths and 2.2 million injuries a year in the US alone.

      Almost 10 million deaths by auto in the US since 1899. I’d guess 99.9% of them were caused by human error. So it’s not exactly a small perceived increase in security.

      I realize everybody on this site is Mario Andretti reborn, but imagine the average driver. Then realize that half of the drivers are worse than that. I’ll take my robot car just so all the drunk, makeup applying, high, Alzheimers having bottom half get off the road.

      • 0 avatar

        Is there any proof that drivers with superior driving skills have fewer crashes? I suspect they push the envelope more than other drivers.

  • avatar

    Count me in as one of those willing to spend a few thousand to get the self driving capabilities – as long as we’re talking I-95, etc. There’s nothing I’d love more for my 2-3 times a year trip to St. Augustine/Daytona than to drive the two miles from my house to the Atlee/Elmont ramp on I-95 (exit 86 in VA), get on the southbound ramp and hit the switch. The car takes over and beeps for me to resume manual mode at whatever exit the GPS has decided is the quickest route to my destination.

    There’s a lot of good reading I could knock out during those 8-9 hours on 95. And I’d really prefer the car to do the driving on those trips. The one drawback is that at least one of those trips is motorcycle, and I can’t see that working on two wheels.

    Local roads? Play roads? I’ll drive my own thank you very much.

    And this scenario is where I see self-driving going, at least for the first decade. Self driving in town is going to take a lot longer.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m spending ~$4k just to get a car with the driving assistance stuff. Want a small hatch, manual trans with ADAS so Mazda it is. I’d love a Focus ST or maybe even a Civic Sport but the goodies are either not offered or only with the auto trans.

      Of course, the system doesn’t cost $4k but Mazda makes you step up to the Grand Touring.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “People in Austin must really enjoy relaxing — or avoiding insurance claims.”

    Nobody using autonomous driving features today is avoiding insurance claims as a consequence, unless this statement means the client doesn’t crash to begin with. A crash between one or more vehicles with AV capability will still result in insurance claims.

  • avatar

    I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed the vast majority of driving I have to do. clogged interstates and sketchy bypass routes through Detroit aren’t really anyone’s idea of “fun.”

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    I grew up in South America in the 60’s and 70’s. We had a full-autonomous level 5 driver that took the entire family to and from work, school, restaurants and the supermarket. Only one car was usually needed to move everyone around. João was a sweetheart of a man. Worked for the family until retirement. He received the family car, a Opel Omega as a parting gift. Died in 2006 of old age. Never an accident, made a heck of a good caipirinha and bbq. And had great stories about his childhood. May he rest in piece.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    The more interesting question is how much will a company pay if an L5 vehicle can dispense with the driver all together.

    I suspect $100k premium for a autonomous truck (like the ones in Logan) would be paid in a heartbeat, putting hundreds of thousands of truckers out of work.

  • avatar

    The survey is flawed because it continues to propagate the assumption that the current model of car ownership will continue. Level 5 vehicles will be a shared resource, ready to be summoned via your phone app.

    The notion of one to one car ownership for the vast majority of vehicles will likely become as outdated as having to worry about finding a parking spot for your car.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a lot of flaws in the survey.

      I’ve always been a proponent of the split autonomy future.

      As in the wealthy and rural will continue to have their own autonomous vehicles, and the less wealthy and urban will have shared autonomy.

      In other words, the automotive industry will clearly split between “car Sharers” and “Car Owners” somewhere around $30k and suburbia

  • avatar

    The majority of my driving is two lane, tree lined highway but I would gladly pay for the people that sit in the drivers seat eating, smoking, applying make up and giving themselves a Brazilian all at the same time while posting it all on social media the technology for that car to drive itself.

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