Vehicles that drive themselves on the road or take over in congestion may be on the road in large numbers by 2017 and autonomous cars might create a $42 billion market by 2025, the Boston Consulting Group said.
Self-driving cars, building on technology already available in many luxury vehicles, might be able to navigate crowded city streets by 2022 and may be a quarter of worldwide auto sales by 2035, the firm said. With as many as 9 billion people predicted to live in urban areas within the next 25 years, more than the global population now, automakers are trying to create technologies that ease congestion with the ability to multitask safely. Japan and Western Europe are probably going to adopt the technology most quickly, its study found.
Xavier Mosquet, North America leader of the Boston-based firm’s automotive practice and managing director of its Detroit office, said, “Even more surprising, consumer interest and the production costs are also making autonomous vehicles highly attractive to both carmakers and their customers.”
Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields said this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that “an automaker probably might introduce a self-driving vehicle within half a decade, personally we are focusing on more cost effective features that assist in driving.” In addition, General Motors said in September it was going to introduce hands-free highway driving technology on a Cadillac in two years. Also unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was the F 015 Mercedes self-driving concept car, it has four seats, including the driver’s that are able to face each other, rather than the road. Six screens let passengers monitor information about the Daimler AG vehicle and the outside world, using technology that responds to eye movements and gestures. Mercedes already sells a system that is able to pilot a car on the motorway, as long as the driver keeps a hand on the steering wheel, and by 2016 aims to have a hands-free system, Boston Consulting said in the study.
Tesla Motors also plans to offer hands-free highway driving in Model S electric cars this year. The price to add the technology to vehicles ranges from $2,000 to $10,000 and might decrease in a range from 4 percent to 10 percent in the first 10 years as adoption spreads, according to the study. It is estimated that by 2035 about 18 million vehicles may be partially autonomous and 12 million might be full autonomous, with China the largest market by that time.
In a September survey of 1,500 U.S. drivers, more than half of respondents said they were likely or very likely to buy a partially self-driving car within about five years, with 44 percent saying they probably may buy a fully autonomous car in a decade. The Boston Consulting Group recommended has to that to help ensure potential stalling challenges the autonomous vehicles must be secure from cyber-attacks and questions about liability must be answered, the firm said. Also, more precise maps are needed and automakers must investigate the social characteristics about cars that drive themselves.
The spread of the technology may also lead to self-driving taxis that might be more affordable to operate in large cities such as New York or Shanghai than conventional taxis and reduce congestion. The autonomy may also increase car sharing and further reducing congestion. “The next decades, after 125 years of driving yourself, are going to be ones that might change the auto industry to the biggest extent in 100 years. It is going to be radical,” said Thomas Dauner, Boston Consulting’s head of the global auto practice and co-author of the study.
Also this week was the Detroit auto-show, where Honda showed its next-generation hydrogen fuel-cell car for the first time in North America saying the car is the headliner that is going to usher in a new age of Honda innovation, including a move to turbocharged engines for Honda. The exotic-looking fuel-cell car, called the FCV Concept, is scheduled for U.S. introduction in 2016.
How much of a role might driverless cars play in the future?