Chinese Consumers Are Ready for Self-Driving Cars

Oct 27, 2014 03:22 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

Chinese consumers seem to be more open-minded than Americans when it comes to self-driving technology, according to a new report from the fifth Global Automotive Forum.

Potential car buyers in China have been more receptive to new autonomous technology compared with American consumers, said Rolf Kremer, CEO-Chinese operations for German supplier Continental, according to Ward's Auto.

Continental plans to have "highly automated" vehicle systems prepared to launch as soon as 2016 in a timeline that anticipates fully self-driving cars by 2025.

Automakers say that self-driving systems will be exponentially safer since they take out human error. In China, where traffic accidents claim 100,000 lives each year, consumers are interested in vehicle systems that will improve safety, a more pressing issue than added infotainment features.

Another international trend is fewer young drivers eager to get behind the wheel; for example, less than 10 percent of 16-year-olds in Stockholm, Sweden, have obtained their driver's license.

"It used to be 100 percent," said Pasi Nieminen, founder and CEO of Link Motion, which focuses on connected cars, as quoted by Ward's Auto.

Continental's projection for autonomous cars by 2025 is more optimistic than a report from research and advisory firm Lux Research earlier this year.

"In spite of the tremendous hype around driverless vehicles, a vehicle that can truly drive itself in all conditions will not be on the road by 2030 in the likely scenario," said the study released in May.

The firm said that self-driving technology could lead to an $87 billion market by 2030, CNBC reported at the time.

"I think that it's realistic that demand (from China) for feature-rich cars will overtake Europe and the U.S. at some point by 2030 or even earlier," Rainer Mehl, who heads manufacturing consulting at data firm NTT Data, told CNBC.

"A more open attitude from Chinese premium car buyers towards high-tech features, the high relevance of status symbols and probably less legal restriction is likely to further speed up demand."

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