Man Driving Car Belgium and the self-driving car

Belgium and the self-driving car

With headlines like ‘The future of car driving is here’ and ‘New era of mobility is upon us’, automotive innovations related to electric and self-driving cars are everywhere in the media today. We’re still some time away from ‘level4’ autonomy though, even from a technical and certainly legal perspective, but how far has the mindset of the average Belgian driver progressed anno 2017? Are we all eagerly anticipating the self-driving car? Let’s find out!

Which driver assist technologies do we know?

Even though a completely self-driving car is not on the market yet, quite a lot of related assist tech is already commercially available today. Most people have heard of cruise control (90%) and automatic parking (81%), but far fewer Belgian drivers are aware of more autonomous technology such as adaptive cruise control (53%), lane assist (60%) and traffic jam assist (43%).

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Which of these car technologies do we know?

Mental barrier to hand over control

A substantial group of people don’t seem too thrilled. For most assist tech that can act autonomously to make our driving lives easier, many people are reluctant to hand over control.

For example: 

  • 27% of drivers wouldn’t want to have lane assist on their car
  • For one in three of them, handing over control is the main barrier
  • For one in four, it’s not seeing the benefits of this assist tech sufficiently

Is this really so surprising though? Most us of know people saying they don’t want a car with automatic transmission because they want to shift gears themselves. Do we all want cars that take a whole lot more out of our hands?

And it’s not just an issue for those who have to assess the added value of this tech hypothetically either. Over half the current owners (!) of automatic parking indicate to never or rarely use it (56%).

Over half of the owners of 'automatic parking' indicate to never or rarely use it (56%)

Watch out for technological determinism

While the industry and media may get carried away with technological innovations as such, we have to remind ourselves that the average driver is less excited and first needs to see the benefits better. When asked how important a number of factors will be in deciding which car they will buy next, 17% indicated ‘assistance technology’ will be very important. This is dwarfed however by the top answer ‘safety’, which 52% of people consider crucial. This is very interesting because it means that car manufacturers could communicate a lot more effectively about self-driving related tech when highlighting safety benefits, rather than the tech innovation as such, on which their current communication focusses heavily.

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Factors when deciding which car to buy

Adoption potential

Currently, 36% of Belgian drivers don’t see themselves ever buying a self-driving car. A large majority of Belgian drivers (72%) does not think self-driving cars will be a commons sight in the streets by 2030. When asked to what extent a number of changes would increase their interest in a self-driving car, the top answers were ‘proven to work without errors in all kinds of traffic conditions’ (48% indicated to be more interested in that case) and ‘car manufacturer proves that the self-driving car is less likely to be involved in an accident than a regular car’ (43% is more interested). 

So while we still have some technological and legal hurdles to overcome before self-driving cars will be part of our lives, let’s not forget that the consumers and their needs should receive sufficient attention too. Only then will the full potential of self-driving tech innovations be unleashed.