KEY POINTS

  • Fully autonomous vehicle technology continues to advance, and all signs point to self-driving vehicles becoming a reality in 2018. In fact, consumers can can already buy vehicles that will get software updates over the next few years that will let them hit the road without a driver.
  • BI Intelligence estimates that nearly 2.4 million self-driving cars will be shipped in the US between 2018 and 2025. By 2025, we project there will be nearly 2.1 million on US roads.
  • However, developers still need to address several challenges before autonomous vehicles can reach general consumer availability.
    • Technological developments. Companies looking to create mass-market self-driving cars must augment vehicle sensor systems, continue to enhance autonomous driving artificial intelligence (AI) programs, and improve mapping and routing protocols, all while reducing the costs associated with these technologies.
    • Regulatory barriers. Autonomous car developers must navigate hazy regulatory frameworks, while balancing requirements and guidelines from different authorities and various levels of government. In addition, they must engage in testing only where permitted and only in specified manners.
    • Consumer openness. To achieve mass adoption, makers and sellers of autonomous cars will have to convince consumers that the vehicles will make their lives easier, and that the technology is safe and worth the increased cost.
  • As they approach the mainstream, autonomous vehicles will upend the traditional automotive sector and adjacent industries. We anticipate massive disruption as a result of the introduction of self-driving cars, affecting not just the consumer automobile market, but both personal, municipal, and commercial transportation, shipping and logistics, and numerous other sectors.

Introduction

The self-driving car is no longer a futuristic fantasy. Consumers can already buy vehicles that, within a few years time, will get software updates enabling them to hit the road without the need for a driver. This autonomous revolution will upend the automotive sector and disrupt huge swaths of the economy, while radically improving energy efficiency and changing the way people approach transport around the world.

For most of the last century, automotive development focused on the car itself. Manufacturers tried to build more powerful engines, make more comfortable interiors, and streamline the car’s body to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency. Carmakers today must continue to invest in these areas, but they also face additional challenges related to the advent of autonomous technology, which is maturing fast and has already started to transform vast segments of the automotive sector. New companies [...]