Survey shows a third of people would opt for smartphone over car

Meanwhile, security remains a top concern with self-driving vehicles

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Once a rite of passage for any teenager, owning a car is increasingly being overshadowed by the desire for a smartphone, a new survey shows.

The survey of 1,200 people in four major countries by global tech design firm Frog found that 30% of respondents would give up their car before their smartphone.

"Given that smartphones have been commonly available for only 10 years, we expect the proportion of people who value them more than their car to grow swiftly and significantly," Frog said in a statement about the survey.

The online survey of the residents in the United States, China, Denmark and Germany  found that 37% of car owners would like to give up their car outright or felt they could get by without it.

The survey also revealed that 23% of respondents had used crow-sourced taxis in the past year compared with 50.4% who used traditional taxis. Correspondingly, 56% of those surveyed indicated they would like to be able to be productive while in transit.

According to the survey, 3% of consumers expect to be a car owner for less than a year, and another 17% report they will give their car up sometime within the next five years.

"This may suggest that 20% of the market could be open to alternative service models within the next five years," Frog stated. "If you expand that out to the next 10 years, 29% of the market could be ready to make such a change."

Andrew Poliak is the global director of business development for QNX Software Systems, which created the embedded operating system for many of the world's major automakers, including Ford, GM, Toyota and VW.

Poliack sees a "generational shift" taking place.

"I think the people of my generation saw driving a vehicle as a rite of passage to adulthood. That was your freedom," Poliack said. "I think the generation now views going from point A to point B as just occupying time that they could be doing something else.

"I don't think they view it with the same freedom that I did as a kid," he said.

QNX's software controls not only telematics (or in-vehicle telecommunications) systems, but also a growing number of in-vehicle sensors and safety modules in which it's embedded.

Poliak said a growing issue in the autonomous vehicle industry is security.

Toyota self-driving car Toyota

Toyota's Highway Teammate self-driving car has been tested on Japan's roadways.

"Security is a big, big topic. People I don't think realize the unique challenges to the auto market," Poliak said. "People are used to security where there's a hack and you patch it. There's an exploit and you patch it. That's one challenge -- making sure if there's an exploit, [it's possible] to update the software in those cars."

The problem is that the vast majority of cars do not support over-the-air or wireless software updates. That means vehicle owners are responsible for addressing identified exploits by either downloading software patches onto thumb drives and upgrading  vehicles themselves or bringing their cars to a dealer for the upgrade.

As more cars are wirelessly connected, wireless updates will become more common. Still, as vehicles continue to gain autonomous features they're put at more risk of a  hack or software exploit.

"I don't think the market will accept a consumer approach of an exploit happening...and then you fix it, because in an autonomous vehicle an exploit can be catastrophic," Poliak said.

"We're decoupling that hamster wheel of patch/fix and trying to be proactive in building systems that have a resiliency...that prevents any catastrophic attack on an autonomous vehicle," Pollack added.

One of the issues facing the auto industry is the computer system reboot, which unlike a phone or desktop computer, can't be done on the fly.

A separate survey just released by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and its social media communities revealed challenges to the future of driverless vehicles.

Respondents indicated that they wouldn't feel comfortable with driverless vehicles transporting their children, and that safety and trust in the technology remain the biggest barriers to consumer adoption.

The survey was distributed to IEEE experts who are members of the IEEE Intelligent Vehicle Systems society. There are about 1,300 members, of whom 119 responded. The survey was also promoted on its Facebook and Twitter social channels, through which it received an additional 294 responses.

When asked on a scale from 1-5 about their comfort having autonomous vehicles pick up/drop off their children (1 being not at all comfortable to 5 being very comfortable), 70.8% of experts and 59.7% of IEEE social media followers pinned their comfort level at a 3 or below on the scale.

When asked what their main concern is about driverless vehicles on the road, IEEE social media followers and experts -- 54.3% and 62.6%, respectively -- said safety  is the primary issue for their wariness.

The vast majority -- 75.5% of IEEE experts -- indicated they would use autonomous vehicles for daily errands, followed by daily commuting (74.1%) and road trips (60.7%).

When asked what needs to be addressed for driverless vehicles to be considered safe, experts want to see better driverless vehicle technology. Additionally, 26% of experts responded that government policies and regulations remain the main barrier to mass adoption of autonomous vehicles.

"I think that we are absolutely going to be seeing driverless vehicles on the road in the near future, possibly in as little as five years," said Jeffrey Miller, IEEE member and associate professor of engineering practice at the University of Southern California. "Experts from all over the world are contributing to this industry and it will be interesting to see which country is able to offer driverless vehicles first. Environment, regulations and consumer acceptance will be key drivers to its success."

This story, "Survey shows a third of people would opt for smartphone over car" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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