Would you buy a self-driving car if you could? Although hybrid
cars have yet to hit the mainstream, self-driving cars (SDCs) that include driver control are predicted to take off in a big way.
Indeed, global analyst firm IHS just pushed out a study that suggests SDCs will hit highways around the world before 2025. All told, there should be nearly 54 million self-driving cars in use globally by 2035.
In the study, “Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Cars -- Not If, But When,” IHS Automotive forecasts total worldwide sales of self-driving cars will grow from nearly 230 thousand in 2025 to 11.8 million in 2035. Of those, 7 million SDCs will include both driver control and autonomous control, and the other 4.8 million will use only autonomous self-driving control.
Looking further into the future, the study anticipates that nearly all of the vehicles in use after 2050 are likely to be self-driving cars or self-driving commercial vehicles.
The price premium for the SDC electronics technology will add between $7,000 and $10,000 to a car’s sticker price in 2025, a figure that will drop to around $5,000 in 2030 and about $3,000 in 2035 when no driver controls are available.
The Benefits of Self-Driving Cars
“There are several benefits from self-driving cars to society, drivers and pedestrians,” said Egil Juliussen, principal analyst for infotainment and autonomous driver assisted systems at IHS Automotive. Juliussen co-authored the study with IHS Automotive senior ADAS analyst Jeremy Carlson.
“Accident rates will plunge to near zero for SDCs, although other cars will crash into SDCs, but as the market share of SDCs on the highway grows, overall accident rates will decline steadily,” Juliussen said. “Traffic congestion and air pollution per car should also decline because SDCs can be programmed to be more efficient in their driving patterns.”
Carmakers Getting Ready
Several automakers have said publicly they will have autonomous cars by 2020, or earlier. Autonomous car technology is already affecting driver assist systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and collision mitigating brake systems.
What’s more, the IHS study says the first group of autonomous cars will have so-called Level 3 capability -- limited self-driving that enables the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic and environmental conditions. Level 3 control also includes auto pilot for highway travel and parking. Coming later in the decade will be SDCs with Level 4 capability -- self-driving but with human controls.
North America is forecasted to account for 29 percent of worldwide sales of self-driving cars with human controls (Level 4) and self-driving only cars (Level 5) in 2035, or nearly 3.5 million vehicles. China will capture the second largest share at 24 percent, or more than 2.8 million units, while Western Europe will account for 20 percent of the total, 2.4 million vehicles.
Hold Your Horse Power
Of course, the study also notes some potential barriers to SDC deployment and two major technology risks: software reliability and cyber security. The barriers include implementation of a legal framework for self-driving cars and establishment of government rules and regulations.
We turned to Charles King, a principal analyst at Pund-IT, to get his take on the predictions. He told us SDCs are an intriguing idea and he can see where the use of self-driving cars could be quite valuable, particularly in urban areas where traffic congestion is an endemic problem without a decent solution. But King also offered a major caveat.
“Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but we’re living in a country currently that seems to have an aversion to investing significantly in infrastructure upgrades,” King said. “I have a feeling that despite whatever the benefits there would be from self-driving cars, just like cellular telephony and even Internet service, there are places in the U.S., let alone places globally, where the cost of deploying the self-driving infrastructure will outweigh any potential benefits from it. Will they find some success and be a significant presence over time? Yes, I think so but not to the level this study suggests.”