Despite uncertainty about possible regulatory measures by Congress, automotive and technology companies are forging ahead to roll-out self-driving cars, according to a new survey.

Foley’s 2017 Connected Cars & Automous Vehicles Survey found that traditional automakers and suppliers have been joined by emerging and mature technology companies in the race to fill the streets with driverless cars. However, there remain barriers to these technologies reaching their growth potential and gaining acceptance by the general public.

While the terms “connected cars” and “autonomous vehicles” are often used interchangeably, there are clear differences in where the technologies currently stand and their obstacles to growth.

For connected cars, which have sensor-enabled communication systems, the largest percentage of respondents (31 percent) view cybersecurity and privacy issues as the most pressing concern.

By contrast, respondents identified safety (35 percent) and consumer readiness to adopt (24 percent) as the top obstacles to advancing autonomous vehicle development.

“Connected car technologies are already prevalent today, with increasing ease of access, convenience and affordability. Thus, it’s not surprising that cybersecurity and privacy are top of mind with industry executives,” said David Kantaros,, co-chair of Foley’s Automotive Industry Team and partner in the Detroit office.

“With the deployment of autonomous vehicles further on the horizon, convincing consumers of the viability of self-driving cars and the potential to reduce accidents is a more near-term focus.”

Respondents also expect the automotive sales process to continue evolving as new technologies enter the market.

The vast majority (77 percent) anticipate that automakers will bundle more connected services and/or autonomous features at the point of sale, while roughly half (46 percent) predict that sellers will increasingly leverage vehicle data to guide the sales process.

Industry Seeks Stronger Regulatory Framework

The legislation advancing in Congress would address regulatory obstacles to deployment of self-driving cars and preempt state laws – a welcome development in an industry seeking greater regulatory certainty and an alternative to the patchwork of differing state requirements. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62 percent) believe that nationally consistent rules from the federal government are the best way to regulate connected cars and autonomous vehicles.

“Given the significant financial and safety stakes, the sophisticated nature of the technology and the likely pervasive impact on society, it is not efficient for 50 different states to dictate the development of the industry,” said Steve Hilfinger, co-chair of Foley’s Manufacturing Industry Team and partner in the Detroit office.

“The legislation moving through Congress should serve as a springboard to further guidance and rules that will spur development and innovation, prioritize safety and emphasize education.”

Business Challenges and the Cybersecurity and IP Thicket

While survey respondents underscored the importance of simultaneously devoting resources to connected cars and autonomous vehicles, more than half (54 percent) struggle to fund and commit the necessary time to develop and implement these technologies. Concerns around the shortcomings of roads and public infrastructure (39 percent) and regulation and legal risks (37 percent) were also top of mind.

In developing technology for connected cars and/or autonomous vehicles, respondents identified cybersecurity attacks (63 percent) and intellectual property protection (58 percent) as most concerning to their companies.

More than 80 executives, a majority with C-suite or director-level titles, at leading automakers, suppliers, startups, investment firms and technology companies completed the 2017 Connected Cars & Autonomous Vehicles Survey.