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Gaining Public's Acceptance for Self-Driving Cars Tough

Uber self-driving taxi
Self-driving Uber prototype in San Francisco / Wikimedia Commons photo

Self-driving vehicles are the newest, biggest thing in the automotive industry and could literally revolutionize the way we get around. But just how eager is the public to buy into this radical new product and how safe do they feel in such a vehicle? After all, there’s already been a death from one of the things, last year in Florida.

Keith Crain, the editor-in-chief of Automotive News, thinks it’s going to be a tough sell:

Let's introduce something that no one wants, no one is willing to pay for and, on top of that, may not be perceived as being safe.

…Sure, there is a built-in market for self-driving cars among elderly and disabled people. Owner-operators of semis are another natural for these vehicles.

But what about the millions of people who are in the market for transportation but want no part of autonomous vehicles? Those people will need to be sold and sold hard. — Automotive News (also here)

But as Crain writes, the car companies are wildly enthusiastic, if the public isn't, at least not yet. AdAge says that the right approach in marketing the new-fangled cars is a cautious one, gradually bringing the public around:

So how do you market a product that flies in the face of current high-octane, high-performance messaging and imagery automakers have relied on for decades? Cautiously. The auto industry is introducing the self-driving concept bit by bit, highlighting automated features like lane-keeping assist that don't diminish the joy of driving.

Self-driving cars would almost certainly cause dramatic shifts in the business models traditional automakers have relied on for decades in other ways, bringing challenges but also new opportunities. Driverless robot-taxis could make ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft cheaper, potentially luring more people out of the car-buying market. "More than likely the business model will shift from selling a car to selling miles and selling mobility," said Mark Wakefield, head of the automotive practice at consultancy AlixPartners. — AdAge

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