Would you buy a new car from Google?

Would you rather buy a self-driving car made by Google, or by Detroit?

A new report from the KPMG accounting and consulting firm, based on responses from a series of focus groups, finds that consumers still have questions about the idea of a car that drives itself. But they’re increasingly receptive to the idea. And they’re more likely to trust the technology if it comes from Silicon Valley, even if a company like Google has no prior experience making cars.

On a scale of one to 10, focus group participants gave a median score of 8 to the idea of buying a self-driving car from a tech company, compared with 7.75 for a car from a premium automaker such as Mercedes Benz, and 5 for mass-market brands like GM or Ford, according to the report.

Google, of course, has been working on self-driving technology for a while; its vehicles can be seen on streets and highways all around Silicon Valley.  And major automakers clearly believe there’s a market for autonomous vehicles. Nissan recently announced it plans to market a self-driving car by 2020, while Tesla, GM and others have talked about incorporating some self-driving features in future vehicles.

Among consumers who are receptive to the idea, KPMG found they are less interested in traditional features like speed and acceleration — perhaps not surprising, since those folks won’t be putting the pedal to the metal themselves. And that means consumers may not care if the engine is a high-performance machine from a traditional car-maker.

In a related finding, KPMG also found that consumers who are open to riding in a self-driving car may not care that much about who owns the vehicle. Some two-car families may decide to own one car they can drive and rent or use a self-driving vehicle car service when they need a second set of wheels. (That may explain Google’s recent decision to invest more than $250 million in the Uber car service.)

KPMG  works for companies in the auto and the technology industries, but a spokesman declined to identify any of its clients.

One other finding from the focus groups: Women are slightly more open to the idea of riding in a self-driving vehicle than men. “Some of the men,” according to KPMG, “were more likely to resist because self-driving vehicles would force them to stay in a lane and follow speed limits.”

(Photo of Google self-driving car, in the carpool lane on Highway 101, by Brandon Bailey)

 

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