April 28, 2016 / 5:07 PM / 2 years ago

Younger U.S. buyers more open to self-driving cars: J.D. Power

DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. consumers who are under 40 are more open than older people to self-driving cars and their underlying systems, according to a survey released on Thursday by J.D. Power.

The rear of a Lexus SUV equipped with Google self-driving sensors is seen during a media preview of Google's prototype autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California, U.S., September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo

The 2016 U.S. Tech Choice Study found that 56 percent of Gen Y buyers - born 1977-1994 - said they trust self-driving technology, compared with 41 percent for Gen X - born 1965-1976 and 23 percent of Baby Boomers -born 1946-1964.

Significantly, over one-third of Gen Y buyers would pay $3,000 or more for an automated system, the study found, without giving comparative figures for other generations.

“‘Will they pay?’ is always the key question,” said Kristin Kolodge, J.D. Power’s executive director of driver interaction and human machine interface (HMI) research.

The survey by the marketing information firm should encourage automakers such as General Motors Co, suppliers such as Delphi Automotive Plc and tech companies such as Alphabet Inc’s Google, all of which are accelerating development of self-driving cars and systems.

All respondents, however, share a concern for vehicle security and safety, including the potential for advanced technology systems to be hacked or hijacked, the survey found.

Consumers also balked at the projected prices on some of the underlying equipment, J.D. Power said. Lane change assist was among the top 10 tech choices, but dropped off the list when consumers saw the $1,500 price tag. Among the most popular items, based on their estimated price, were a camera-based rear-view mirror ($300), smart parking ($100) and predictive traffic ($150).

With developments in driver assistance systems rapidly advancing, “the industry is at the cusp of a mobility revolution,” said Kolodge, “but consumers will decide which technology choices win.”

Conducted earlier this year, the online survey of nearly 8,000 vehicle owners found a higher level of trust and confidence among younger consumers in such advanced driver assistance systems as lane change assist and traffic jam assist.

Those systems, which several automakers are phasing into production, are considered a foundation for fully automated vehicles that could begin appearing on U.S. roads in 2020.

The level of trust in such systems “is directly linked to the level of interest in a new technology among automobile buyers,” said Kolodge.

Reaction was also mixed to on-demand mobility services such as those offered by ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, with younger consumers more open to the concept.

There were some light moments in the survey feedback, said Kolodge, with some respondents admitting “they are poor sharers.”

Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Andrew Hay

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