A recent Business Insider article identified 19 companies aiming to launch driverless cars by 2020. Chief among them, Tesla Motors, has committed to developing one by 2018. It is well known that Silicon Valley is eyeing up the auto industry as tech giants also turn their attention to cars. Uber has a laboratory in Pittsburgh to develop self-driving taxis and is working closely with Volvo. Sony put money into ZMP, a self-driving car startup, Google has been working for years on driverless cars having driven over 1 million miles already, and even Apple is secretly working on an autonomous, electric car to rival Tesla.


And there is much to be won. Analysts estimate up to 400 million connected cars will be on the road worldwide by 2030 up from approximately 36 million in 2015, generating over one trillion dollars of annual revenue for car makers


Yet despite an undeserved reputation for being slow to adopt new technologies, most automakers are pouring resources into connected cars, driverless vehicles and alternative forms of propulsion like BMW’s induction charging.  Foremost, carmakers are investing heavily in an essential step towards the fully autonomous car – connectivity.  This enables on-board computers to communicate with each other as well as to roadside infrastructure, in order to monitor traffic conditions, avoid other vehicles, and to find and reserve parking.


No single player or technology has gathered much momentum to date, and the connected and autonomous vehicle market is still in a turbulent stage reminiscent of the “Betamax versus VHS” debate. Yet ultimately customers will decide the winner. To help shape the debate INRIX decided to ask drivers their opinion.


INRIX surveyed 5,504 consumers in five countries, to understand driver experiences and perceptions of connected and autonomous vehicles, and our new report presents the major highlights. According to the INRIX Connected & Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Consumer Survey, connected cars are gaining momentum with 25% of drivers of young vehicles (under 4 years old) being connected, and over 40% of new cars (under 1 year old) having connectivity. Despite growth that is outstripping analysts’ expectations, the auto industry needs to do more to educate consumers. For example, whilst three-quarters (76%) of drivers had heard of the term “connected car”, over half (56%) admitted to not knowing what it meant.


Connected cars have more in common with a modern computer than they do with cars of the past, and collectively will produce over 30 Terabytes of data a day by 2020. Consumers are rightly concerned about their data privacy with a third of respondents in the INRIX CAV Consumer Survey not trusting anybody to secure their connected car data. Among respondents who trust someone, 3.6 times as many Germans and 1.5 times as many British drivers trust traditional car makers with their data compared to silicon valley’s tech giants. In the US by contrast that pattern is reversed with 1.4 times as many Americans trusting tech companies compared to automakers.


Despite a widely reported spate of autonomous vehicle incidents,  most consumers (62%) believe driverless vehicles will be widely available within a decade, and most (72%) expect autonomous vehicles to be as safe or safer than current cars. Troublingly only 25% would buy one. This may be due to a number of unknown reasons including anticipated cost, concerns over vehicle safety, driver preferences or, potentially, acknowledgement that autonomous vehicles are more likely to be shared than owned.


The INRIX CAV Consumer Survey highlighted a major barrier for new entrants. On average, across the five countries traditional carmakers were more trusted to build driverless cars compared to tech giants, and fewer than 4% of respondents trust ridesharing companies to build AVs. There was marked variation by country that may prove interesting to industry insiders. At one extreme, in Germany automakers were favoured almost 3 (2.8) to 1 over tech companies, but in the US this was reversed with tech giants nosing head of carmakers at 1.1 to 1. The UK fell in between with 1.7 times as many Brits trusting car makers to build autonomous vehicles compared to technology companies.


The incumbent auto industry has two main advantages over the tech challengers. First, they understand their business well. Second, they have established consumer trust in being able to build vehicles that can propel occupants from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds. This trust appears to be particularly strong when it comes to considering an autonomous future.


The INRIX CAV Consumer Survey finds that traditional automakers still hold the keys to a connected and autonomous future. Therefore, whilst in the future our cars may be different, the brands are likely to be the same. But whilst automakers are beating Silicon Valley in the connected car race, they need to heed consumers if they are to solidify this lead as the first AV cars roll off the production line. To read the full report, visit the INRIX Research website.