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Driverless Cars: The coming insurrection

The technology required to produce an autonomous vehicle already exists in specific circumstances. The challenge is to make self-driving cars viable in all locations, all conditions and all situations.

Incumbent automotive manufacturers, together with major suppliers to the industry, are well along the road towards commercial production having already implemented a number of more basic autonomous driving features. Yet there remain significant barriers to the adoption of autonomous driving, not least of which will be consumer perception.

Some of the key concerns in this regard will be skepticism around the passenger monitoring capabilities of human machine interface (HMI) systems, the potential need for more cameras on roads, and the future absence of any manual driving experience – something relished by motoring purists. Furthermore, a vital issue that may prevent widespread adoption will be apprehension around the safe operation of autonomous systems – how for instance will an autonomous vehicle decide whether or not to protect a passenger or a pedestrian if such an ultimatum arose?

According to research by Cisco in 2013, around 57% of global consumers would be ‘likely to ride in a car controlled entirely by technology that does not require a human driver’. Yet there appears to be much variation between countries, with those most likely to trust an AV living in Brazil (96%), India (86%), and China (70%). In which case, to obtain the global average figure of 57% there must be many countries with much less than 57% of the population being comfortable with autonomous driving.

Nevertheless, many inside the industry expect autonomous cars to be on the roads in the next decade. At present, the main players are largely intent on retaining the driving experience offered by current vehicles that can then be enhanced by progressively sophisticated driver assistance systems until fully self-driving cars can be provided at the push of a button. New companies in the automotive industry such as Tesla are following a similar approach whereas outsiders such as Google are looking to re-imagine the nature of mobility completely through fleets of fully autonomous cars from the very beginning.

For more information on robot cars, see my latest case study – Autonomous vehicles: The coming insurrection’, which provides an overview of the technologies behind and the industry players involved in the autonomous vehicle industry. It also gives an in-depth analysis of the likely impact of autonomous vehicles, covering key future issues. MarketLine subscribers can access the report here, alternatively go to our store.

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