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More Tech, More Car Problems? Survey Details Widespread Concerns

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Technology is making cars more convenient — but that also leaves them more vulnerable to cybersecurity issues. As high-tech features become the norm, they’ll prove a vital consideration for those looking to buy a car.

A new survey from Sonatus — a vehicle technology solutions company headquartered in California — looks at the implications of this trend, including how people feel about cybersecurity issues and their vehicles. Among the findings, almost a third of Americans are willing to spend upward of $1,000 for premium vehicle security features.

Cybersecurity vehicle concerns abound

About two-thirds (64%) of Americans expressed concern that someone may be able to remotely hack into their cars. That concern centers around potentially having their car stolen, a key worry for 60% of Americans.

Other common concerns include:

  • Hackers gaining access to their personal data (55%)
  • Location tracking (53%)
  • Hackers interfering with driving capabilities (52%)
  • Theft of items in car (45%)

But this concern doesn’t necessarily translate to buy-in when it comes to security measures that could negate these risks. And many aren’t aware of how these fixes can be accomplished.

The problem with software updates

One of the ways that vehicles can get bug fixes and added features is by over-the-air (OTA) software updates. These allow people to have updated software without having to visit the dealership. And although these updates are newer in the car world, they’re becoming more common.

However, almost 40% of Americans aren’t sure if they can update their cars using this method. This lack of knowledge is more common among Americans 45 and older, more than half of whom don’t know if their car can get OTA software updates.

Another potential hitch: Much like resistance to computer software updates (how many update messages have you put off in the past few months?), not everyone is willing to give OTA software updates the time they need to work. In fact, just 27% of Americans said they’d tolerate five or more weekly OTA updates if they were 30 minutes each — and still, only 41% would if each update took just 30 seconds.

While the convenience factor is a cause for concern, another potential area of contention — cost — seems to be less of an issue than some might imagine.

Willingness to pay for increased security

According to the survey, 60% of Americans are willing to pay at least $250 for additional security features, while 30% would spend more than $1,000.

Once again, there’s a generational difference here: Car buyers ages 18 to 24 seem to be more willing to spend on added security than Americans overall. According to Sonatus, over two-thirds in this age range would spend at least $250, and nearly 40% would spend more than $1,000.

It seems this preference to pay even supersedes the convenience issue. In fact, 62% of Americans said that they would pay at least $250 more for a car if it could have 95% of its software maintenance and issue resolutions done remotely — 35% would even spend more than $1,000.

This may be something future buyers should factor in when setting their budget to determine how much car they can afford. But it’ll take patience if those same buyers are to avoid the potentially more expensive dangers of infrequent software updates.

Methodology: Sonatus surveyed 1,600 U.S. adults via Pollfish, fielded from March 17-23, 2022.


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