By Jennifer LeClaire, January 2, 2013
Egil Juliussen, co-author of the IHS
Automotive study on Self-Driving Cars, describes several benefits of
autonomous cars, including the possibility for accident rates to plunge
to nearly zero. Traffic congestion and air pollution are also expected
to decline. Several automakers have already announced plans to produce
SDCs by 2020 or sooner.
Would you buy a self-driving car if you could? Although
hybrid cars have yet to hit the mainstream, self-driving cars (SDCs)
that include driver control are predicted to take off in a big way.
Indeed, global analyst firm IHS just pushed out a study that suggests
SDCs will hit highways around the world before 2025. All told, there
should be nearly 54 million self-driving cars in use globally by 2035.
In the study, “Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Cars -- Not If, But
When,” IHS Automotive forecasts total worldwide sales of self-driving
cars will grow from nearly 230 thousand in 2025 to 11.8 million in 2035.
Of those, 7 million SDCs will include both driver control and
autonomous control, and the other 4.8 million will use only autonomous
Looking further into the future, the study anticipates that nearly all
of the vehicles in use after 2050 are likely to be self-driving cars or
self-driving commercial vehicles.
The price premium for the SDC electronics technology will add between
$7,000 and $10,000 to a car’s sticker price in 2025, a figure that will
drop to around $5,000 in 2030 and about $3,000 in 2035 when no driver
controls are available.
The Benefits of Self-Driving Cars
“There are several benefits from self-driving cars to society, drivers
and pedestrians,” said Egil Juliussen, principal analyst for
infotainment and autonomous driver assisted systems at IHS Automotive.
Juliussen co-authored the study with IHS Automotive senior ADAS analyst
“Accident rates will plunge to near zero for SDCs, although other cars
will crash into SDCs, but as the market share of SDCs on the highway
grows, overall accident rates will decline steadily,” Juliussen said.
“Traffic congestion and air pollution per car should also decline
because SDCs can be programmed to be more efficient in their driving
Carmakers Getting Ready
Several automakers have said publicly they will have autonomous cars by
2020, or earlier. Autonomous car technology is already affecting driver
assist systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and
collision mitigating brake systems.
What’s more, the IHS study says the first group of autonomous cars will
have so-called Level 3 capability -- limited self-driving that enables
the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under
and environmental conditions. Level 3 control also includes auto pilot
for highway travel and parking. Coming later in the decade will be SDCs
with Level 4 capability -- self-driving but with human controls.
North America is forecasted to account for 29 percent of worldwide
sales of self-driving cars with human controls (Level 4) and
self-driving only cars (Level 5) in 2035, or nearly 3.5 million
vehicles. China will capture the second largest share at 24 percent, or
more than 2.8 million units, while Western Europe will account for 20
percent of the total, 2.4 million vehicles.
Hold Your Horse Power
Of course, the study also notes some potential barriers to SDC
deployment and two major technology risks: software reliability and
cyber security. The barriers include implementation of a legal framework
for self-driving cars and establishment of government rules and
We turned to Charles King, a principal analyst at Pund-IT, to get his
take on the predictions. He told us SDCs are an intriguing idea and he
can see where the use of self-driving cars could be quite valuable,
particularly in urban areas where traffic congestion is an endemic
problem without a decent solution. But King also offered a major caveat.
“Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but we’re living in a country
currently that seems to have an aversion to investing significantly in
infrastructure upgrades,” King said. “I have a feeling that despite
whatever the benefits there would be from self-driving cars, just like
cellular telephony and even Internet service, there are places in the
U.S., let alone places globally, where the cost of deploying the
self-driving infrastructure will outweigh any potential benefits from
it. Will they find some success and be a significant presence over time?
Yes, I think so but not to the level this study suggests.”