While the basic technology needed for self-driving vehicles is now in luxury cars as automated driver aids, it will take decades for fully autonomous vehicles to clog roads. Even then, the growth is hindered by legal requirements in many countries saying all vehicles must have a driver in control at all times. Some U.S. states and European countries have begun issuing licenses for companies to conduct testing of autonomous driving features on public highways under strictly controlled conditions. However, before full autonomous driving becomes available, liability issues must be resolved.
The classic ‘who pays’ problem is the core issue. Automakers might assume responsibility for their vehicles, but it is improbable that they will assume responsibility for drivers safely operating them. There remain significant technical barriers as well. Computing power, glitch-free software development (still a large problem for car companies), high-end image processing and sensor cost and coordination all remain formidable issues.
Nevertheless, according to a new report from Navigant Research, sales of autonomous vehicles will increase from fewer than 8,000 annually in 2020 to 95.4 million in 2035, representing 75% of all light-duty vehicle sales by that time.
Advanced driver assistance systems – adaptive speed control, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning – are now bundled together in some 2014 models, making semi-autonomous driving a reality in many markets for the first time. Increasing production volumes and technology improvements – leading to cost reductions – are now making it feasible to install the multiple sensors necessary for such capabilities.
“Fully autonomous vehicles are unlikely to reach the market suddenly,” says David Alexander, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “Instead, progressively more capable systems that can assume control of certain aspects of driving will be introduced gradually. The first features will most likely be self-parking, traffic jam assistance, and freeway cruising — well-defined situations that lend themselves to control by upgraded versions of today’s onboard systems.”
The report, “Autonomous Vehicles,” examines the emerging market for advanced driver assistance systems leading to semi-autonomous and autonomous driving. Included are profiles of vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, along with an analysis of the drivers and inhibitors for sales of these vehicles. Forecasts for revenue and sales volumes, segmented by region, extend through 2035. The report also includes a review of core driver assistance technologies that make self-driving vehicles possible. An Executive Summary is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.