Google’s autonomous car can legally be considered a driver, U.S. regulators said this week in yet another indication that policymakers are rethinking their cautious stance on the experimental vehicles. Even before the cars hit America’s roads, implementing existing technologies could help brands build the consumer loyalty necessary to sell autonomous vehicles.

One example is over-the-air software updates, which let manufacturers easily correct issues that could otherwise prompt costly recalls. When Chrysler discovered a vulnerability in the Jeep Cherokee, the brand distributed a patch by physically mailing USB sticks to car owners. In contrast, Tesla’s over-the-air connectivity can remotely deliver fixes.

Apps linking vehicles and smartphones are another area where brands can demonstrate their tech prowess. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. Auto brands have already developed such apps, although many lack basic functionalities. For instance, only 25% of apps enable drivers to start their vehicles using their phones.

Features available in connected car apps

L2’s Digital IQ Index: Auto predicts that brands failing to implement these fundamentals will be left in the dust when more advanced technology is introduced. With Tesla regularly unveiling features such as semi-autonomous driving and the ability to remember different drivers’ seating preferences, later adopters may find it difficult to catch up.

Mastering such technologies can also help brands build consumer trust, making it more likely that drivers will remain loyal when autonomous options eventually become available. Consumer confidence could be key in determining an Auto brand’s success at selling autonomous vehicles. Despite all the hype surrounding Google and Tesla, many drivers remain reluctant to cede their spot at the wheel – particularly in the U.S., where only 27% of consumers said they were “very likely” to ride in a self-driving car.



Daily Insights in Your Inbox