DETROIT—Consumers won't value the advanced safety technologies being developed for self-driving vehicles if they don't understand how they work, Samir Salman, Continental A.G.'s North American CEO, said Jan.16 at the Automotive News World Congress.
The company last year conducted a mobility survey to measure consumer sentiment on advanced safety features. One surprising result: Only about half of respondents believe self-driving cars are a useful advancement, while more than 75 percent said they were concerned about the reliability of AVs.
But Salman, citing the consumer acceptance of seat belts and airbags, said such biases can be overcome if the industry makes the effort to explain how new safety features work.
Continental, he said, is working to develop safety technology aimed at reducing traffic accidents and injuries down to zero.
"Our basic job here is to educate people outside the industry," said Salman, speaking on a supplier panel alongside Ray Scott, CEO of Lear Corp., the giant seat supplier. "For the first time, achieving zero roadway deaths seems achievable."
Scott said Lear is readying a new flexible seating system that uses powered rails in the floor for a European auto maker that will go into production next year. It is a precursor to the systems self-driving cars will use. The Lear system also could enhance safety as smart seats monitor a driver's condition, and sensors can configure seats for optimum safety when a crash in unavoidable. Four other automakers are also interested in the system, Scott said.
On other topics, both CEOs said they are embracing the record pace of change affecting suppliers by establishing new partnerships with nontraditional companies.
"Suppliers will have to think differently and be more agile and selective if we are going to be successful," Scott said. "We have to think and behave differently for collaborative partnerships."