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Autonomous vehicles to take different routes in different markets


Source: IHS Markit

  • Autonomous vehicles are on the way, probably sooner than you think
  • But what are the pathways towards an autonomous, 'mobility-as-a-service' future?
  • And which countries and regions are going to accelerate

The turn of the new year seems a relevant time to assess the likely impact of the next generation of mobile connectivity devices. I mean of course the connected - and soon to be autonomous - car.

Autonomous vehicles (including drones, which are a sub-species if you think about it) are still the most compelling new application for the next gen, ultra-low latency mobile services promised with the advent of 5G. Forget minority sports such as remote surgery - unless you count yourself distinctly unlucky you’re not likely to spend much time under the care of a remote surgeon. The same is not true of the connected and increasingly autonomous car  because we’re all likely to be spending many months and many terabits in its warm embrace at some point over the coming years. All the numbers say so.

It’s not ‘if’ any more, it’s ‘How’?

IHS Markit as been having a hard think about how we get from here (still piloting and experimenting with the autonomous car concept) to a market of millions of vehicles, with its  latest autonomous vehicle sales forecast. There are stages and routes to be worked out and all countries and regions will not develop in the same way or in the same direction.

It projects that more than 33 million autonomous vehicles will be sold globally in 2040. This, it says, is a hockey stick increase from the “51,000 units forecast for the first year of significant volume in 2021.”

The pace will partly be set by the rapid convergence of autonomous driving and mobility services such as ride-hailing which it expects to be an early driver of deployment and growth. The United States will lead the world in this initial set of deployments with  adoption of production autonomous vehicles as early as next year. Europe and China are next adding considerable volume from 2021 onward.

IHS Markit says volumes will surpass 51,000 units in 2021 when personally owned autonomous cars reach individual buyers for the first time, with nearly 1 million units sold in 2025 across shared fleets and individually owned cars.

According to Jeremy Carlson, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit. “Autonomous mobility services can deliver newfound personal freedom to the young, old, disabled and others without reliable transportation for everyday needs” he added, “but the benefits don’t have to stop there. Fleet operators in big cities who better understand the lower operational costs of battery electric vehicles are more likely to employ them to drive higher amounts of vehicle and passenger miles traveled.”

Additionally, an increasing number of governments around the world contemplate phasing out or disincentivizing gas-powered vehicles in favor of hybrids and electric vehicles, and as OEM efforts toward vehicle electrification continue, it’s logical that air quality in cities should improve.

US likely to develop an 'industry friendly' regulatory approach

The U.S. market will see the first autonomous vehicle sales as many individual states and the nation as a whole are expected to adopt an industry-friendly regulatory approach. The first uses will be in mobility service fleets, which will provide early hands-on experience with the technology and help reduce consumer skepticism. Announcements from General Motors, Waymo and Uber contribute to early projected mobility fleet volumes in 2019 before personal autonomous vehicles become available as early as 2021.

Total U.S. volumes of autonomous vehicles are expected to reach 7.4 million units per year in 2040. Mobility services have taken hold in many Chinese cities already and China leads in total volume, driven by mobility services.  Driverless variants are expected to maintain popularity with Chinese consumers. Additionally, the automotive and technology industries are aggressively closing the gap in key sectors including autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. Regulations on autonomous vehicle testing and deployment are expected soon in China, and will provide clarity for the industry to reach 14.5 million autonomous vehicle sales in 2040.

Meanwhile, IHS Markit says European regulations will prove an obstacle to the same ride-hailing services that will drive initial deployment in the U.S., but European markets are especially strong in technology-rich luxury brands. As a result, according to the forecast, the balance in Europe will tip toward personally-owned autonomous cars over driverless mobility fleets, amounting to 5.5 million autonomous vehicle sales annually in 2040.

Other global markets, with some exceptions, will  see late deployment and low adoption, it claims.

In summary, ‘Mobility-as-a-Service’ will prove to be a boon to autonomous driving, and it will help prove and improve the technologies while allowing the industry to reimagine the relationship between the car, the driver and the user experience. As operational areas expand, miles traveled and the business opportunity increase considerably. Business decisions — battery electric vehicle versus hybrid, how to deploy cyber security, data privacy and monetization — will become even bigger differentiators than they are today.

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