Consumers May Want Autonomous Vehicles But Don’t Want to Share the Ride & Talk to Other People

The MERGE Greenwich project was setup to develop  understanding of consumers’ attitudes towards autonomous cars and ride sharing, to clarify how an AV ride-sharing service could appeal to customer motivations and could be designed to overcome any potential barriers to adoption.

The report covers the customer research conducted as part of the project.

AV technology was the aspect of the service which potential customers were most excited about, whereas respondents were hesitant about sharing a journey with strangers. Over 85% of survey respondents indicated willingness to use an AV in the future. Less than half
(46%) were willing to use a ride-sharing service for various types of journeys once or twice aweek. This willingness dropped (to 26%) when respondents considered using a ride-sharing service three or more times a week.

While most reactions to AVs were polaried, either positive or negative, the majority ofpeople thought they would eventually use AVs. The readiness to accept AV technology was driven by an assumption that regulators would require AV technology to be proven through rigorous testing before being deployed for commercial use and available for members of the public to use.

On the other hand, concerns relating to privacy and security deterred a number (15%) of participants from showing a willingness to adopt ride-sharing. Sharing a journey in a small space (such as a saloon car) implied different social rules compared to, say, sharing a busy
tube carriage or bus. This indicates that vehicle design would be key to overcoming barriers to ride-sharing, by ensuring the environment provided personal space, safety and comfort.

Design of the digital customer interface (booking App), presentation of information (e.g. route, location sharing, emergency call button) and the ability to speak directly to a person in authority were identified as other ways to overcome consumer concerns, by providing
transparency, emergency contacts and reassurance of safety.

Our research indicated that the most likely users of an AV ride-sharing service will be men with an average age of 45, whereas women over 50 are the least likely to use such a service. Men indicated they are more excited about the technology of AVs, whereas women are much
more concerned with personal safety. Having a steward on-board an AV ride-sharing service would go a long way towards easing potential customer concerns (57% of respondents indicated this would increase their willingness to use the service). Also, offering a shared,
fixed route, shuttle-type service was more popular than a shared service which had nonfixed destinations. Knowing the route increased the perception of control and safety among potential passengers.

Compared to other survey respondents, private car users are more likely to adopt an AV ride-sharing service (28% of respondents who use a private car for leisure and 18% who use one for commuting indicated a high likelihood), as people are increasingly frustrated withthe reality of owning and operating a personal vehicle (traffic, parking, congestions fees and fines or parking tickets). A small number (6%) of frequent taxi users (more than one journey a week) indicated they would be highly likely to switch to an AV ride-sharing service.

The reports suggests
Recommendations for Mobility Service Operators from MERGE:
1) Offer different types of service and AVs for different market demands
2) Design AV services to cover different operating zones
3) Widely educate about autonomous vehicle and ride-sharing safety
4) Design vehicles and customer service to guarantee personal safety
5) Design some services to have an authority figure, a ‘steward’ on board
6) Let customers see the benefit of autonomy through pricing and payment innovation

Ride-sharing will be the largest attitude barrier to overcome when designing an AV ridesharing service offering. A key emotional benefit to traveling by car or taxi is the sense of control and personal space. While public transport does not deliver personal space there are different ‘social rules’ that apply in this setting: ignoring people is considered the norm and the idea of talking with fellow passengers is unusual. Also, public transport vehicles are larger so there is usually a choice in where to sit, or even to stand, making it easier for users to avoid people they may have concerns about.

Travelling in a confined space, such as the intimacy of a car, suggests the unwelcome need to talk to other passengers. This is one key reason why many people rejected the ridesharing services such as Uber Pool or Lyft Line5. However, those who initially rejected the
idea of sharing a journey with strangers also voiced positive experiences, such as meeting new people on a ride-sharing service while outside the UK. This suggests that the initial reaction of potential customers to reject ride-sharing could be overcome by encouraging
them to experience a journey at least once. Research participants indicated that a positivefirst experience in a ride-share service would go a long way to overcoming that barrier.

This involved an online survey of 324 people and face-to-face focus groups in order to hear directly from potential users about their willingness, or otherwise, to use such an AV ride-share service. Respondents were asked to consider an AV service not just for individual trips but also in a ride-share mode.

This project is being delivered by a consortium led by global mobility services operator, Addison Lee, and involves expert input from Ford, TRL, TransportSystems Catapult, Immense Simulations and DG Cities. Jointly funded by the UK Government and industry, the £1 million project will take 12 months, concluding in summer 2018.

Read report.