|Autonomous Vehicle Sales by Region, World Markets: 2015-2035. Source: Navigant Research. Click to enlarge.|
In a new report, Navigant Research forecasts that vehicles with autonomous driving modes will gradually gain traction in the market over the coming two decades, from about 4% of the global light-duty vehicle market in 2025, rising to roughly 41% in 2030 and 75% by 2035—about 95.4 million units annually by then.
Navigant projects that the first fully autonomous functions will go into production in 2020, though the projected numbers will extremely low. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the three largest markets (North America, Western Europe, and Asia Pacific) from 2020 to 2035 is expected to average approximately 85%.
Individual advanced driver assistance features have been available in the luxury vehicle market for some years, but in 2012, functions such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning were offered on standard cars for the first time. Combinations of these features are now being brought to market in some 2014 models to offer semi-autonomous driving, the report notes.
The advent of more accurate global positioning system (GPS) navigation, as well as onboard sensors and the associated advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) have provided the technology foundation for more autonomous driving, the report adds. Advances in computing power and software development mean that features such as high-end image processing and sensor fusion are now ready for production.
Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) features such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) communications will add another level of data input to autonomous driving technology. These features will improve the information available to drivers and contribute to the road traffic control system for cities. V2V in particular will be valuable in enabling the safe platooning of autonomous vehicles in convoys or road trains.
The industry consensus is that autonomous driving will be available by 2020, but significant, non-technological hurdles remain—mainly, those of liability and legislation.
One of the main barriers to automated driving is the legal requirement in many countries that all vehicles must have a driver in control at all times. Some US states and European countries have begun to issue licenses to companies to conduct testing on public highways under controlled conditions as the technology is being developed. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are always very careful to thoroughly test all systems before launch. Still, assuming responsibility for not just supplying the vehicle, but also driving it is a liability that will entail a great deal of confidence in the technology.
From a practical perspective, fully autonomous driving is not going to come to market suddenly. Instead, there will be a gradual introduction of progressively more capable systems that can assume control of certain aspects of driving. The first features will most likely be self-parking, traffic jam assistance, and freeway cruising. Integration with intelligent transportation systems (ITS) will also offer opportunities to explore new functionality.
The role of the driver of a vehicle will evolve to be more like that of the pilot of an aircraft. Drivers will be responsible for setting the parameters for a trip and managing the details at the start and end of a journey, but will rely on automated systems to handle the straightforward aspects of driving. Remaining alert and dealing with the unexpected will be a driver requirement for many years.—“Autonomous Vehicles”
Automated driving has the potential to make roads safer and reduce the large portion of accidents that are caused by driver error. However, the report suggests, the fundamental market driver for the introduction of new technology is competition among the OEMs for enhanced brand image. In the short term, the main driver for growth in the number of autonomous features installed will be the perceived value of the systems to the new vehicle purchaser.
In the longer term, as the societal value improvements are recognized, there will likely be additional support from entities such as businesses that stand to benefit if employee commutes are easier and cities that want to improve traffic flow. Insurance companies and/or governments may also provide some incentives once the technology proves that it reduces collisions and injuries.—“Autonomous Vehicles”