If you think driverless cars are far in the future, think again. Just a decade from now, in 2024, ABI Research projects that global shipments of driverless cars and trucks will be 1.1 million. That’s forecast to increase dramatically to more than 42 million in 2035, by which time the number of driverless vehicles in use will reach 176 million worldwide.
Autonomous driving, with a human being as backup, is quickly gaining acceptance, but ABI says only driverless vehicles will bring the full range of automation benefits including car sharing; driverless taxis, and delivery vans; social mobility for kids, elderly, and impaired; and overall economic growth through cheaper and smoother transportation. “Many barriers remain but the path towards robotic vehicles is now firmly established with high rewards for those first-to-market,” said ABI VP and practice director Dominique Bonte.
Though there is progress on the technological side—both on sensor hardware and Artificial Intelligence—user acceptance, security, liability issues, and regulation remain huge bottlenecks. But ABI sees the automobile industry dragging its feet somewhat, leaving an opening for a technology company, such as Google, which is already testing a prototype, to become the market leader. ABI warns that there is a great case for driverless vehicles, and the automotive industry should start preparing, instead of spending all its time, effort, and money on various complicated forms of semi-autonomous driving. However, the research company notes, “it remains unclear if and when car OEMs will be ready for this ‘leap of faith’ with Google already moving in to exploit the opportunity of leading the automotive revolution.”