It’s about a 4 min. read.
Emotions play a key role in the commercial success or failure of emerging disruptive technologies. Most recently, we looked under the hood of the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry to understand the specific emotions that drive or deter widespread adoption.
On the wheels of Tesla’s recent announcement to operate a fleet of one million self-driving taxis by the end of 2020, I’ll provide more direction for how tech companies and automakers can most effectively convince various consumer segments to embrace this future.
As part of a recent self-funded research study exploring the link between emotions and the self-driving car industry (download the full report here), I channeled my inner Don Draper and drafted faux ad concepts selling the promise of a driverless future.
With each concept touting a different benefit of autonomous vehicles (safety, convenience, etc.), respondents were asked to select which would most likely get them to consider a self-driving car.
I’m still awaiting my Ogilvy Award–but until then, let’s dig into the results of this exercise:
We then layered on a lift analysis that asked respondents to again consider the likelihood to use an AV based on the ad message they had just selected as most compelling. Although the results from this exercise were underwhelming, it did help move some “Ambivalent” Millennials into the full-on “Accepter” category by touting the Productivity and Efficiency benefits.
As this exercise indicates—and is often the case with new tech trying to “cross the chasm”—marketing to the most swayable early adopters vs. general population can be an effective tactic for gaining traction. Messaging to early adopters will be more nuanced, but when done right, can encourage adopters to spread positive word of mouth to more mainstream late adopters.
The Don Drapers of the world can only do so much convincing until more people actually experience the technology for themselves.
Fortunately, consumers are getting a taste of increased levels of ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems) technology as features like auto-braking and lane correction become more common in newer cars.
Further, the less common but also rapidly growing “Level 3” vehicles (e.g., Tesla’s “autopilot” mode) that can go on full autopilot—under certain conditions—can also help consumers overcome the anxiety they have about fully letting go.
At the moment, very few consumers said they’d get into anything other than an autonomous vehicle they could—if need be—take over (i.e., “Level 3”). This sentiment could be problematic for the future of companies like Uber, Lyft, and now Tesla, who isn’t about to let passengers take control when they feel like it.
However, people who own Level 2 or 3 vehicles have much more nuanced attitudes towards this scenario—more commonly anticipating that in the future, they expect their primary car to be a Level 4 or fully autonomous at Level 5. And those who already own Level 2 or Level 3 ADAS vehicles have much stronger positive emotions and fewer intense negative emotions when reacting to being in a fully autonomous car.
This leads me back to my own emotional journey with vehicular automation. Recall a run-in with a faulty cruise control back in the ‘90s left me extremely wary of technical automation (read here if you missed that story).
In 2018, after decades of avoiding this kind of automation, I got my first real taste of Level 2 assisted driving technology while on a road trip with my son to Washington, D.C. We were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic when my phone’s GPS cut out. I took my eyes off the road to futz with the phone when suddenly the car (not me) slammed on the brakes. Turns out I was about to rear-end the car in front of us.
I was shocked, embarrassed, humbled, and relieved. Had it not been for the auto braking, this story would have ended differently (we were only going 30 mph, but you get the idea).
The more I see drivers facedown in their phones at the wheel, the more I wonder if it’s time for us mere mortals to start letting AI take a little more control over our transportation systems. I still have deep anxiety over the prospect of riding in a fully self-driving car, but my emotions towards this possibility are complex and evolving.
With some focused determination, those invested in these efforts can push me—and likely many others—along towards greater openness to a driverless future.
If you’re interested in learning more about this research, CMB’s methodology, or want a live recall of my various run-ins with faulty cruise control, check out this webinar.Watch Now