October this year saw a new record for electric vehicles, with 10% of cars sold either battery-powered or hybrid cars, up from just 3% a year earlier. When will we hit 50%? That will depend on infrastructure, but also our attitudes.
Our research shows 60% of the population know little about electric vehicles, rising to three-quarters75 Just 10% claim to be ‘very comfortable’ with the idea of autonomous driving76 – a figure not dissimilar to those who say they’d be comfortable leaving their elderly relatives’ care to a robot, or having a robot conduct minor surgery on them. In some ways, so far, so normal. Humans are generally worried about new technology – be it steam engines, the printing press, or the car, all of which have triggered legislation to control them and protect jobs and people’s safety.
So, psychologically, we may have some way to go to convince consumers to fully let go of their wheel.
Self-driving cars could cut accidents by 90%, possibly shrinking the car insurance sector to 40% of its current size by 204077
In theory, self-driving cars could cut accidents by 90%, saving many thousands of lives a year. But as with many technological leaps, disasters tend to make bigger headlines than small advances. Take, for example, the 2018 case of Elaine Herzberg, killed by an autonomous Uber vehicle while pushing her bike across the road, because it didn’t recognise her as a hazard.
While current government policy (such as pollution and congestion charges, tax incentives, liability laws) can continue to nudge consumer psyche in the direction of electric vehicles, the real challenge lies in how quickly it can deliver the necessary infrastructure across the whole country. To really push the electric uprising in the UK to reach the levels of Norway,78 an exemplar country for uptake, will require significantly greater public spending.
The new technology will have an impact on other industries, too. There are a wealth of threats and opportunities for brands, some of which are already starting to present themselves. Thirty per cent of consumers in London now use delivery apps instead of eating out, preferring to log in rather than drive to make a 7pm dinner reservation. Meanwhile, those who do choose to drive – or, rather, be driven – present a new audience and a new channel for marketers, through in-vehicle media.
The combined force of technology and consumer desire is rarely overcome. So, with a concentrated push behind infrastructure policy, and a healthy dose of technological trust for consumers, the mobility revolution might not be that far away after all.