The When, Who, Where of Self-Driving Vehicles

You can hardly pick up a newspaper or business magazine these days without it containing an article on autonomous driving. The consensus is that there’s no doubt that self-driving vehicles are coming. But, there seems to be quite a variance on the when, where and who of the situation.

Then When of Driverless Cars
Across the globe there are numerous active pilot programs to test the viability of autonomous driving in various settings . . . everything from the Google fleet of vehicles to driverless taxis in Pittsburgh and Singapore, to the EasyMile shuttle service in several European cities, to city buses in Korea and various European sites. But when we will, the actual consumers, be going driverless?

According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, up to 75% of all vehicles will be autonomous by 2040. The president of the Insurance Information Institute says autonomous vehicles (AVs) will populate U.S. roads by 2032, but what does populate mean?

Here’s where the discrepancies begin. According to market researcher IHS Automotive, autonomous vehicle sales will be nearly 21 million in 2035. But, a study by industry consultant BCG puts the figure significantly lower, predicting 12 million fully autonomous vehicles to be sold globally per year by 2035. At the same time, auto OEMs and suppliers offer their own predictions for driverless cars as shown below:


Given the various barriers to autonomous driving including liabilities, regulations and the required smart infrastructure, I’m going to bet on the less aggressive predictions. And, even when these areas are addressed, we need to think about the actual acceptance rate as there still exists a lack of faith in the safety of driverless technology.

Who Wants a Self-Driving Car
Despite the focus on developing AVs, surveys seem to indicate that most Americans have little trust in autonomous vehicles. Recent studies by the American Automobile Association and the Canadian Automobile Association reach the same conclusion — two thirds to three quarters would not trust an autonomous vehicle to drive itself with them in it.

However, when we take a global look at autonomous driving, the public opinion changes dramatically, according to a University of Michigan Transportation & Research Institute (UMTRI) report.

What is your general opinion regarding autonomous and self-driving vehicles?

And, no surprise, the younger generations, where digital technology has been ubiquitous in their lives, are more apt to accept self-driving vehicles, says another report from UMTRI. Of those aged 18 – 29, nearly 19% would prefer a completely self-driving vehicle as compared to only 9.6% for those over age 60. Still, a pretty low number overall.

Across the globe, people believe there are benefits to driverless cars, especially in the areas of improved road safety and accessibility for people with mobility issues. But despite these beliefs, it will undoubtedly take some education and a proven track record to gain consumers trust enough for them to invest in a self-driving car.

Driverless Progress by Region
As mentioned earlier, just about every country is testing and demonstrating automated vehicles. However, developing a vehicle capable of driving itself is just one part of the puzzle — just as crucial is the development of the ecosystem that will enable these autonomous vehicles to expand out of limited geographic areas and actually take to the open road.

Every quarter, consultant Roland Berger actually tracks the technological developments made in this area globally. In terms of the ability to launch autonomous vehicles in a volume environment, Germany has consistently maintained this lead, with the U.S. following in expertise and Japan recently outranking Sweden in the third position. The strength of Germany’s OEMs is rooted in the high availability of automated driving functions in its mass-produced vehicles.

However, when it comes to the infrastructure required for these vehicles, Japan and the U.S. currently have an advantage. There is a still significant work to be done in order to create the connectivity needed for the launch of highly automated driving functions.

The takeaways?
Although the exact when, where and who of the situation may be a bit murky, the sure thing is that driverless cars are coming. Another sure thing is that these AVs —  or computers on wheels — add significant vehicle and process complexity to product development, yet transportation suppliers and manufacturers must introduce new high-tech capabilities and features faster than ever, all while managing this complexity, optimizing performance and ensuring vehicle safety. The companies that build the safest, and reliable vehicles the most efficiently will win. To find out about solutions to meet these goals, visit Dassault Systemes Transportation & Mobility Solutions.

Nancy Lesinski
Born and raised in the Motor City by a Donna Reed mom and Corvette engineer dad, my parents were continually surprised that their humanities-loving daughter ended up with a career focused on manufacturing and the automotive industry. I’ve been providing communications services to Dassault Systemes since 2001.
Nancy Lesinski
Nancy Lesinski