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Reinventing Mobility with Autonomous Vehicles

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By 2030, one out of three cars will be autonomous vehicles. This may seem hard to believe, but it’s true! Indeed, according to a study carried out by Capgemini, 64% of the population will prefer to use an autonomous car compared to a classic car. As opposed to 25% currently.

The market is expected to grow exponentially over the next ten years. This will result in the massive commercialization of this new type of transport. It is important to note that $1.6 trillion in global revenues should be generated annually with the arrival of these new products on the market. All the more so, since they will make their entrance into traffic with their share of promises: reduction in the number of deaths, reduction in harmful emissions or reduction in the time spent in traffic jams. Autonomous vehicles seem to have a promising future. Let’s find out, how they will reinvent tomorrow’s mobility.

Autonomous vehicles : the current context

Autonomous Vehicles (self-driving cars, shuttles, robot taxis or trucks) represent a major innovation for the automotive industry, but their potential impact, as well as their adoption rates, remain unclear. While there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the issue, the role that autonomous vehicles could play in our economy and society appears to be major.

According to a study conducted by ABI Research, by 2025, approximately 8 million autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles will be on the road. However, before these vehicles can become part of the mass, they will first have to pass through different levels of technology in terms of driver assistance.

What do these levels correspond to? The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) has defined 6 levels of automation that can be separated into two distinct categories. On the one hand, the levels of automation where the driver still monitors his driving environment. This category includes levels ranging from 0 to 3, and on the other hand, the levels of automation where the driving system will monitor it for the user. Levels 4 to 6 fall into this category.

Levels of autonomous driving

Level 0 : No automation

Driver assistance is very limited. However, conventional options such as automatic emergency braking or blind-spot warning are available. The driver is in overall control of his vehicle. This level of automation corresponds to most vehicles currently on the road.

Level 1 : Driver assistance

Driver assistance is available as an option: cruise control, lane centering function or warning in the event of failure to maintain a safe distance.

Level 2: Partial automation

The vehicle can control both steering and acceleration/deceleration.

Level 3: Conditioned Automation

This level of automation corresponds to a self-driving mode under limited conditions. The vehicle has environmental detection capabilities. It will also be able to make decisions autonomously. For example, accelerate to overtake a slow vehicle.

Level 4: High automation

At this stage, driving is almost completely autonomous. However, operations may be limited to designated and geographically fenced areas.

Level 5: Full automation

Level 5 corresponds to completely autonomous vehicles, everywhere and in all conditions.

Although the future of autonomous vehicles is exciting, production will have to wait a few more years before it exceeds Level 2. According to Business Wire, level 4 and level 5 autonomous cars are expected to become a US $60 billion global market by 2030. If only, they are secured against cyber attacks. In 2018, this market was only of US $5.68 billion.

Autonomous vehicles have the potential to revolutionize the transportation industry

Since autonomous vehicles have the potential to address many societal and environmental issues, their entry into traffic is exciting. Here are different ways in which this solution could revolutionize the automotive industry.

1 – The number of deaths will decrease

It is expected that the increase in the number of driverless cars will reduce traffic-related deaths by 90%. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) reported 37,133 traffic fatalities in 2017. Of these, 94% were due to human error. Therefore, it can be concluded that a 90% reduction would save 30,000 lives in a single year in the United States.

2 – Traffic will be more fluid

Secondly, autonomous vehicles will help to make traffic flow more smoothly. Human drivers naturally create traffic jams. Let’s take the case of someone changing lanes, for example. Researchers at Rutgers-Camden University discovered during an experiment that autonomous vehicles were able to control the flow of traffic. With the added benefit of dissipating the stop-and-go waves. According to them, with 5% of autonomous vehicles on the road, a 40% reduction in total fuel consumption and a 99% reduction in braking time would be observed.

3 – Harmful emissions will fall drastically

Among the benefits of self-driving is the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Since fewer accidents mean fewer traffic jams, it also means less pollution. Ohio University has shown that emissions can be reduced by up to 60% with the advent of autonomous vehicles. In addition, it is interesting to note that autonomous vehicles can be programmed to reduce their emissions.

4 – Drivers will have more time

According to a study by Capgemini, the population globally considers that autonomous cars will improve their lives. Half expects the new vehicles to save them time. This could save them 50 minutes a day, or up to 6.5 hours a week. These consumers hope to save time to pursue new activities.

However, the population will not adopt this new solution easily

Despite an almost global feeling of optimism about the future of this technology, we can notice nevertheless a negative feeling towards this new form of mobility.

In a study published by Capgemini, we learn that 48% of consumers around the world associate self-driving with fear. Similarly, 46% associate it with anxiety. These figures reinforce the importance for the automotive industry to work on raising awareness on these technologies. In France, the emotions aroused by this subject are in 39% of cases positive, for an average of 40% worldwide. Autonomous vehicles nevertheless evoke negative emotions for 29% of French people.

It is interesting to mention that 35% of the people aged over 35 years old living in rural areas have negative emotions towards autonomous vehicles. Compared to only 20% for people aged under 36 living in urban areas.

Key barriers that could prevent consumers from adopting autonomous vehicles

Note that there is, however, a difference of perception between what constitutes barriers to adoption for consumers and automotive companies (executives and managers).

  • 71% of consumers consider the fact that autonomous vehicles can get confused by unexpected situations as a key barrier to adoption. This compares to 64% of executives and managers.
  • 73% of consumers consider autonomous vehicles unsecured against hackers to be a key barrier to adoption. Against, 65% of executives or managers.
  • 56% of consumers consider difficult interacting with human-driven vehicles to be a key barrier to adoption. Against 68% of executives or managers.

Infrastructure and the implementation of regulations are also major obstacles, according to a study conducted by BCG. Indeed, to work properly, autonomous vehicles will require new hardware and digital infrastructure. Structural improvements needed include dedicated lanes to separate vehicles from the rest of the traffic. Cities will also need to build charging stations to power these new vehicles. Effective regulation will therefore be necessary. Policy makers will have to address issues such as safety and liability in case of accidents.

A promising future for autonomous vehicles

Substantial investments in the field of mobility

Since 2010, total investment in Autonomous Vehicles (AV) and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) has reached $29.9 billion. Investments in software and mapping for autonomous vehicles represent $13.5 billion. In total, $43.4 billion has been invested in autonomous driving technologies over the last 10 years. This represents about 20% of the total investments made in the mobility market. Among the companies with the most patents worldwide related to these technologies, we can mention, Toyota with 626 active patent families, Ford with 528 active patent families and General Motors with 426 active patent families.

A significant number of startups are also investing in this area. Nuro, Rivian, Zoox as well as nuTonomy are among the best-funded startups in the world in the field of autonomous vehicles.

Predictions related to the autonomous vehicles market

According to BCG, by 2035, 25% of all cars sold are expected to be autonomous vehicles. $1.6 trillion total revenues are expected to be generated from these vehicles annually.

China will be one of the world’s largest market

Among global markets, China is attracting attention. It has the potential to become the world’s largest market for autonomous vehicles. Indeed, these new vehicles could account for up to 66% of passenger-kilometers (a passenger-kilometer is a measurement unit describing the passenger carrying performance of some means of transport, such as a passenger car) traveled in 2040. In terms of units, this means that autonomous vehicles will account for 40% of new vehicle sales.

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