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Market research : how to study reactions to autonomous vehicles

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This is one of the most difficult type of projet market research professionals may face: investigate consumers’ behaviors in a situation that doesn’t exist yet.
In such situations ethnography (a qualitative market research technique) may be the right methodology to go for.

In today’s article we will illustrate how this technique was used in the context of autonomous vehicles.

Self-driving car attracts attention in Virginia

Virgnia Tech University is certainly one of the most advanced as far as research on autonomous vehicles is concerned.
One of their latest experiments triggered the curiosity of journalists who were made aware of a car self-driving in Arlington, Virginia.
A self-driving car was indeed spotted driving in the streets of Arlington (see video below) :



A NBC journalist was the first to uncover what was really going on

And as the Guardian reported

The car was being driven by a man disguised as a car seat, holding the steering wheel low and leaning far back into his own seat.

This was not exactly what one could expect. But it’s nevertheless innovative. Seldom do I have seen such a methodology being used for market research.

How to study reactions to self-driving cars

What the Virgnia Tech employee (and the rest of its team) was doing was indeed market research. They created a setting (that didn’t exist yet) and had a very clear goal in mind : observe human beings’ behaviors when faced with a novel situation. In such assignments nothing beats ethnographic techniques like observation. It’s simple yet too often neglected by market research professionals.

here’s a video on the experiment itself :

As you can see this is quite an elaborate setting which you are unlikely to have to reproduce in a day-to-day market research setting.
Yet, there is much to learn here and to remember. If you want to use observation techniques in your next market research project, read our upcoming article on the subject.


image : shutterstock


Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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