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Building the Self-Driving Future? Don’t Forget the Passengers.

Building the Self-Driving Future? Don’t Forget the Passengers.

Auto companies need to consider their customers when designing the cars of tomorrow.

It won’t be long before self-driving cars become a concrete reality for consumers. In order to make the driverless future successful, however, auto companies need to take consumers along for the ride. A Capgemini study of more than 5,500 consumers and 280 executives can help auto leaders understand consumer expectations for a self-driving future and prepare their organizations accordingly. Here’s what they need to do:

Keep the consumer informed

Consumers don’t simply expect self-driving cars to get them from Point A to Point B. They also want them to perform a range of other tasks. According to the study, consumers say they would be willing to use these driverless cars to run errands or transport friends and family members. In consumers’ eyes, the car is moving from a means of transportation to a quasi-personal assistant. This shift places a significant responsibility on auto companies to be candid about the capabilities of driverless cars in order to avoid any risk of misrepresentation. Industry initiatives in this area are already underway. The Euro New Car Assessment Programme, for example, plans to have a ranking system in place by 2020 that will assess the technical systems, manuals and advertising materials of driverless cars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the U.S. is developing a similar system.

Understand and reassure the consumer

Consumers have distinct views on the experiences they expect from self-driving cars, including how they will use the time they spend inside the vehicles. Auto companies need to build a detailed and nuanced understanding of these expectations and bake them into the design process. Nearly three in five consumers would like to use the in-car time for entertainment, a fact that should be translated into how these vehicles are designed. “In the future, vehicles will be much more purpose-tailored,” says Volkswagen’s Borjana Lambreva. “For Mobility-as-a-Service, consumers will have the opportunity to choose different car concepts depending on the purpose of the trip—for example, a trip to the office versus a trip to the mountains with the family.”

Consumers are skeptical about certain aspects of self-driving cars. Nearly three-quarters are concerned about safety and security and nearly half say the dominant emotion stirred in them by these vehicles is “fear.” Hacking is a prime concern. A recent test of nine popular connected car Android apps showed that researchers were able to locate a car, unlock it, and in some cases even start its ignition. In another case, researchers were able to remotely manipulate and ultimately “kill” a Jeep during a demonstration. Automotive companies will need to ensure that investments are made to allay these concerns if they want to drive adoption. Already, some auto companies have introduced education and awareness campaigns that bring consumers up to speed with the safety aspects of self-driving cars.

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Build an ecosystem of services

Consumer expectations for self-driving cars make it clear that automotive companies need to expand the scope of their consumer offerings. Delivering these experiences will require auto companies to partner with a new set of technology and content players, creating an entire ecosystem of services. Some auto companies have already begun to take steps in that direction. For instance, Audi recently partnered with Disney to introduce a combination of augmented and virtual reality experiences for car passengers.

Develop software competencies

Twenty years ago, a car could run with around a million lines of code. By 2017, that number had likely increased to more than 100 million, and the number can only be expected to rise further in the years to come. For this reason, automotive companies can’t view their self-driving car initiative as just another innovation project. Instead, they need to integrate it into their overall company strategy. Less than a third of automotive companies say they have the necessary technology skills for digital transformation. At the same time, only 38 percent make upskilling or reskilling on digital skills a top priority. Only by integrating self-driving cars into enterprise strategy will organizations be able to build software competencies and other critical digital capabilities.

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