Self-Driving Cars: How Soon Is Now?

By Stephanie Brinley :

One of the hottest subjects of discussion in the automotive industry has been the autonomous or self-driving car. When will it arrive, who is investing in, acquiring and developing the necessary technology, and who is making progress in testing systems. The automotive and technology teams at IHS Markit, the automotive industry’s leading source for market-wide insight, expertise and advanced planning solutions, have followed the developments closely and developed forecasts on technology deployment and its impact on automakers and automotive suppliers.
As the market is seeing increased research and development by automotive OEMs, supplier and technology companies, increasing activities in partnerships and acquisitions and activity within various regulatory environments, IHS Markit has developed a long-term outlook for sales of autonomous vehicles. Additionally, as the sales of autonomous vehicles requires a unique set of sensors and technology to enable these systems, IHS Markit forecasts that the number of vehicles equipped with advanced driver assist systems will surpass 302 million a year in 2022.
Globally, the IHS Markit forecasts indicate tremendous growth of sales of vehicles equipped with some level of autonomous drive capability between 2025 and 2035. IHS Markit forecasts sales of all autonomous vehicles (L4 and L5) growing from just under one million units in 2026 to 21 million units in 2035. The autonomous vehicle and its potential for meaningfully improving mobility will drive a compound annual growth rate of nearly 63 percent between 2020 and 2040.
Drivers of this growth are investment from automakers, suppliers and non-automotive technology companies; pressure created by increasingly congested megacities; and the attraction of huge gains in vehicle safety, tempered by an uncertain regulatory environment. The pace is increasing rather than slowing, and automakers cannot afford not to be involved. However, even against this growth, it must also be noted that traditional vehicles are expected to account for the majority of the global light-vehicle parc and new sales through at least 2040.
The tremendous opportunity suggested by autonomous vehicles is undeniable and the pace of growth expected to quicken rapidly, but it will take time to filter through the vehicle parc and infrastructure. The IHS Markit vehicle forecast (including light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles) suggests that the overall vehicle sales in 2026 will reach 115.2 million units—and the one million in autonomous vehicles will be a small share of the market for decades to come.
“The future fleet of driverless vehicles will provide mobility services for anyone and anything, creating exciting and new opportunities for the automotive industry,” EgilJuliussen, Director of Research at IHS Markit, said. “Increasing competition from the high-tech and other industries is accelerating the auto industry’s autonomous software and cyber security development efforts,” he said.
The IHS Markit principal analyst Jeremy Carlson added, “Those who do not adjust to a changing world will unfortunately be left behind, or will at least face a very different industry.”The US will lead the world in initial deployment and early adoption of autonomous vehicles, while Japan will simultaneously ramp up industry coordination and investment ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Along with technology, key factors influencing growth include new mobility solutions such as ride-hailing and car sharing programmes. These include discussions and initiatives among OEMs and their suppliers, between OEMs and mobility companies, technology company initiatives and increased investment in autonomy and mobility by other entities as well.
“Future mobility will connect and combine many different modes and technologies, and autonomous vehicles will play a central role,” Carlson said. “IHS Markit expects entirely new vehicle segments to be created, in addition to traditional vehicles adding autonomous capabilities. Consumers gain new choices in personal mobility to complement mass transit, and these new choices will increasingly use battery electric and other efficient means of propulsion. As much as the technology and implementation matters, the use case and business model impact the forecast outlook more than anything,” he said. “Ownership in mature markets will remain strong, while more approachable and less expensive mobility-as-a-service options are likely to gain favour in some emerging markets as well as in major metropolitan areas within mature markets.”
Along with expected potential for improving safety and reducing cost of mobility, the regulatory environment, cyber security and software are key development influencers for autonomous vehicles. Continued challenges to autonomous vehicle deployment include potential risks for software reliability and cyber security. In addition, the implementation of local and federal guidelines and regulatory standards, as well as a legal framework for self-driving cars, continue to prove challenging. Various states and regions have taken appropriate measures to begin to develop these frameworks, while others are still crafting their approach.

What Do Consumers Say?

While the industry is moving full steam ahead on developing these technologies, consumers will be the final arbiter of success. Consumers today can access lower levels of driver assist technology, but very few are currently exposed to Level 4 technology, and
none to Level 5. IHS Markit has conducted consumer research into the area, focusing on people who already own a car and want to buy a new car within three years. According to the latest findings, issued in April 2017, about 33 percent of consumers globally say they would ride in and purchase a self-driving vehicle, with another 23 percent saying they would be willing to ride in a self-driving vehicle, but not to purchase one.
IHS Markit data shows that more than half the new-car buying population is willing to at least ride in a fully autonomous vehicle, supporting the faith that the industry has in the eventual acceptance of this technology. As this is technology that will filter through the global vehicle parc over decades, these are encouraging figures. The IHS Markit survey also peeped into regional and age differences in consumer responses. According to the research, younger consumers gravitate toward self-driving cars and older consumers remain wary, a conclusion that is widely expected and reflects that younger generations have grown up with more technology, while older generations grew up with less technology and have had to overcome past patterns in adopting new technology. Another encouraging point for the industry is that according to the results people who are interested in self-driving vehicles also indicate they are willing to pay for the technology.

Increased Autonomy

The necessary autonomous technology is being built on the driver assist systems available today. As the industry and consumers grow into this technology, the latest IHS Markit forecast for deployment of advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) suggests more than 302 million ADAS system applications will be sold annually by 2022, compared with about 116 million in 2016 (one single vehicle often has several systems available). ADAS technology plays a significant role in the deployment of Level 3 autonomy, and provides increasing consumer access to use and understand the technology in stages, building trust and overcoming resistance to fully self-driving cars over time. ADAS growth will be supported by new introductions of automated autopilot, driver monitoring systems and side and rear mirror cameras, each aimed at making the driving activity safer, more convenient or more efficient. This growth is enabled by advances in sensor technologies including radar, camera and LIDAR sensors. Combined implementations of these technologies enable higher levels of automated driving on a global scale.
“Many OEMs have started offering partially automated systems that execute accelerating, braking and steering together,” Aaron Dale, Senior Automotive Analyst at IHS Markit, said. “These systems combine multiple sensors and multiple single-function ADAS features to allow the vehicle to drive, albeit under driver supervision. While some of these individual technologies are well-established, combining functions and sensors requires higher levels of integration as well as substantial computing power,” he said.

Changing View Of Mobility

Autonomous and self-driving vehicle deployment is enabled by constant technology development, as well as interest in safer roads and an expectation for increasingly crowded urban environments. Along with sensors and increasing on-board computing power, artificial intelligence solutions are also expected to be part of the equation. That element of the equation has drawn in technology companies from NVIDIA to IBM and its Watson programme. Watson is working with several automakers for a variety of solutions that will not only contribute to the success of self-driving cars, but also to a shift that could see people using cars as an extended personal assistant as much as for transportation services.
This can include learning about routines and pulling data from calendars to take riders home via the best route and assisting in getting people to a location on time or without forgetting to do an errand. In the long run, the power of artificial intelligence solutions is also going to be a key enabler of self-driving cars, as a tool for ensuring that the vehicle can sense, think and act safely, as a cloud-coordinator for vehicles and the greater transportation ecosystem, and for creating an environment in which the vehicle has the ability to do far more than get a person from A to B.

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