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Edmunds: Car Buyers Are Ready to Embrace Autonomous Vehicles

Car shoppers are more ready for autonomous vehicles than they might realize, according to a new report from Edmunds.

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Car shoppers are more ready for autonomous vehicles than they might realize, according to a new report from Edmunds.

Thanks to the rapid adoption of active safety features, more than 60 percent of new vehicle models today can be purchased at Level 1 or Level 2 autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Five years ago, fewer than 25 percent of new vehicle models offered these features.

“While there are a number of ways one can define who’s ‘leading’ in the race to autonomy, analyzing the prevalence of active safety features demonstrates just how ready OEMs are to bring this technology to mass production, and how willing consumers are to adopt it,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis. “While some car buyers may view a fully autonomous vehicle as a novelty, a vehicle that has the ability to prevent an accident before it occurs is seen as a safety breakthrough.”

In a recent Edmunds survey, more than 40 percent of consumers said they would spend between $1,000 and $2,000 more for a vehicle that had active safety features. Blind-spot detection, pre-collision warning systems and lane-keeping assist are the top features for which consumers said they’re willing to pay a premium.

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“Usually it takes a long time for pricey new technologies to work their way down market from luxury to mainstream vehicles, but because changes in policy are mandating that many active safety features become standard, it’s happening much more quickly,” Caldwell said.

Edmunds also analyzed which automakers are offering active safety features on the widest variety of vehicles in their lineups and found that Tesla, Volvo, Honda and Mercedes-Benz are leading the way.

“Automakers that offer a full suite of active safety features on their vehicles are at a distinct advantage in the race to autonomy,” Caldwell said. “It’s a way they can demonstrate their technology leadership to car buyers now so that when full autonomy does come, they’ve already established trust and credibility with a large base of potential buyers.”

As automakers look to build this future buyer base, courting millennials is particularly important, as they’re the ones who are most ready to be early adopters.

In a recent Edmunds survey, 65 percent of millennials said they would trust a Level 4 autonomous vehicle, and 35 percent said they would buy a Level 4 autonomous vehicle if it becomes available within the next five years. Only 16 percent of millennials surveyed said they would never buy an autonomous vehicle, compared to nearly 50 percent of those 55 years old and older.

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“As active safety features continue to become more and more prolific, we predict these older buyers will start to feel more comfortable with autonomous technology,” Caldwell said. “Our analysis shows the interest in autonomy is there – it’s just a matter of continuing to demonstrate to buyers that the benefits will outweigh any perceived risks.”

To read the full report, visit the Edmunds Industry Center: http://www.edmunds.com/industry-center/.

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