The perception: The city is where the money is
There is a view that “the city is where the money is.” But is this really true? Rural areas are likely to be underserved by most providers. This by its nature might create an opening for players that can get services to these areas in a commercially viable way. Our data shows that this tactic, while difficult, could in fact be made easier by people’s willingness to actually move to rural areas once services become available, effectively increasing the size of the market.
So while it may not be the ‘easy’ money, might there be benefits to going rural? There are upsides for both customers and OEMs, from less congestion to less competition. But, will it pay off to be a first mover to offer rural autonomous services? Below are the risks and potential gains, according to our survey and the people who will decide the outcome: the customers.
Our survey: Revealing the inclinations to move
In a comprehensive survey on the views of customers, we asked 7,000 respondents in the US, Europe and China about their choice of residence in an autonomous future. We asked in a case where their regular travels (e.g. daily commute to work) can be done in fully autonomous vehicles, would this influence their choice of residence? Would they move to a rural area, a suburb, city center or stay where they are right now?
Results in general
Of our total pool of respondents, 47 percent of riders with an urban residence would consider a change of location in a case where their regular travels could be automated. And 11 percent of people would consider moving toward rural areas.
It’s also worth noting that when purchasing a car 76 percent of respondents in urban areas, 69 percent in the suburbs and 59 percent in rural areas are willing to pay a surcharge for self-driving cars. So, while the willingness to pay extra for purchasing self-driving cars is higher in urban areas, rural areas can’t be discounted by any means.
Results by region
The following results combine whether respondents would be willing to move to either the city center or out to the suburbs.
In the United States, they’re not as interested in moving. Of our total share of US respondents, 37 percent of car owners and non-owners say that they would consider changing their place of residence in a case where their daily commute can be facilitated autonomously. With premium car owners (at 53 percent) being the most likely to move.
In Europe, nearly half are willing to move—especially premium car owners. Of our total share of European respondents, 42 percent of car owners and non-owners say that they would consider changing their place of residence should a daily commute be facilitated autonomously. And again, of this total share, premium car owners were most likely to move at 60 percent.
In China, over half are willing to move. Of our total share of respondents in China came the highest response of 55 percent of car owners and non-owners saying that they would consider changing their place of residence in case their daily commute can be facilitated autonomously. And of that total share, premium car owners were again most likely to move at an even higher 64 percent.
Our observations: Premium customers might move
As of now, OEMs—original equipment manufacturers such as big car manufacturers—mainly focus their autonomous activities on urban areas. However, for many customers great value lies in commuting out of the city into suburban and rural areas. So much even, that a considerable number of riders would reconsider their current place of residence once suitable autonomous mobility services arrive.
It’s also worth noting that riders in rural areas generally are more dependent on cars since there are less public transportation alternatives. Plus, premium car owners show a significantly higher propensity to change their place of residence.