Baby boomers may have gotten their driver's licenses the day they turned 16 (I know I did), but a new poll says that younger people — millennials/Gen Y (ages 23 to 34) and Gen Z (16 to 22) — are much more reticent to get behind the wheel. Plainly stated, they're too scared to drive.
The poll was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland for Ford, and it places "other motorists driving dangerously" as the top fear for the two generations. In fact, its cited by 88 percent of respondents, ahead of public speaking (the former top placer, now at 75 percent), death (74 percent), spiders (69 percent) and snakes (also 69 percent). The bottom line is you'll terrify them more with the chase scene from "Bullitt" than a rerun of "Snakes on a Plane."
The driving situations that terrify these younger Americans include: snowy or icy roads (79 percent), maneuvering into tight parking spots (75 percent), backing into busy streets (74 percent), monitoring blind spots (70 percent) and "not knowing where I'm going" (69 percent).
Wait a minute, don't they have GPS? They were born with GPS.
Jonathan Tarlton of Spotify with a SYNC 3-equipped, music-service-enabled Ford Escape. Young drivers want their cars to mimic what their phones can do. (Photo: Jim Motavalli/MNN)
Ford has obvious worries of its own — that young people won't buy cars. And the research indicates that they'd be more likely to buy tech-laden cars that actually help overcome those fears.
Problems with backing up? How about a rear camera with clear guidelines that keep you on a straight path — and warn of traffic or pedestrians in your way.
Blind spot issues? Blind spot detection! Bad weather? Traction control!
According to the research, 65 percent of those polled would be more likely to buy a car if it had on-board aids for parallel parking, and Ford showed off just those available systems at the Further With Ford event in San Francisco this week. Nine Fords offer semi-automatic parallel parking, 10 have blind spot monitoring, and 19 offer rear-view cameras.
According to Sheryl Connelly, Ford's in-house futurist, "Baby boomers by their sheer numbers [the post-war population explosion] affected a lot of change in the auto space." But their iconic car was the Mustang, she said, because it represented "freedom and independence." That hardly presented a challenge to Detroit's image of itself, since selling muscle cars to thrill-crazed kids fits right into the business plan.
Gen Z, by contrast, is "used to tech transfers at the speed of light around the globe," she said. Where boomers bought LPs, and millennials bought CDs, Gen Z "buys no music at all." They stream. And that model makes them less likely to "need" to own a car.
The sharing concept makes sense to them, which is one reason several automakers, including both Mercedes and Ford, have their own proprietary car-sharing services. Ford Credit is partnering with established sharing service Getaround in the U.S. (and easyCar Club in London) on a peer-to-peer sharing service, and recently launched GoDrive, also in London. The latter's hook is that it offers one-way trips with guaranteed parking.
Automakers are keen to introduce new smartphone-enabled infotainment systems, because young buyers virtually live on their phones. Some 26 percent of millennials report that they made a payment using a mobile app in the last year, but only 7 percent of adults 35 and older said they'd done that. And it's hardly surprising that Ford is working on apps for wearable technology, since the company reports that 45 percent of millennials would be comfortable "connecting their payment information to a wearable device to make fast, hassle-free payments." One more stat: 37 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds in 2013 say they'd chose to rent a product rather than purchase it.
Ford made some surprising discoveries about 16- to 34-year-old drivers. (Photo: Ford/Ford)
Related on MNN:
- Warning: Teen drivers listening to music ahead
- This is why senior citizens get into accidents
- The dangerous decline in driver's ed
Inset photo: Asim Saeed/flickr