A new report by ABI Research has muted the excitement for the arrival of fully autonomous vehicles, claiming they won't see large production and shipping numbers until 2029 at the earliest


5G technology could help to power self-driving cars

If you’re expecting to see fully autonomous vehicles whizzing up and down the road any time soon, the findings of a new study will likely come as a disappointment.

Market foresight expert ABI Research’s recent report predicts that level four autonomous vehicles – cars and lorries that require some human input in certain scenarios – won’t count for even 1% of the automotive market until 2026.

Author Susan Beardslee forecasts annual global shipments for these vehicles at fewer than 7,000 by 2023, while level five autonomous vehicles – those requiring no human assistance whatsoever – will account for less than 5,000 a year by 2029.

She wrote: “A true end-to-end autonomous journey is expected to remain a long-term vision, with dense and complicated urban and suburban environments, and added risks of pedestrians and multi-modal transit presenting a barrier.

“Machine learning will need to grow exponentially for multiple use cases, such as weather or how a vehicle is programmed to make moral decisions in case of emergency.”


Challenges facing the arrival of fully autonomous vehicles

The US Congress has two proposals in the works to accelerate the arrival of self-driving vehicles.

The Self Drive Act, which would be the first American regulatory platform to support level three to five autonomous vehicles, seeks to provide exemptions to operate self-driving test vehicles without the safety standards required by the consumer automotive sector.

Meanwhile, the AV Start Act has also been proposed in an effort to build on this, but has been blocked by five senators due to cyber security, hardware and software concerns, meaning no movement has been made on either motion.

Taking the development of self-driving vehicles down another gear is the safety and job loss concerns held by the automotive industry’s unions and employees alike, according to the ABI Research study.

Ms Beardslee wrote: “Their rationale focused on fears of job losses, safety concerns and an unequal comparison to consumer automobiles.

“Autonomy also raises questions concerning job security for the estimated 3.5 million US professional drivers and the changing roles and skill sets required.”

fully autonomous vehicles
A Jaguar Land Rover autonomous car

What’s driving the arrival of fully autonomous vehicles?

There is cause for optimism when it comes to automotive autonomy as many commercial areas of the sector, such as long-haul trucking, stand to benefit greatly from the advent of self-driving vehicles.

The US, for example, is currently experiencing a driver shortage to the tune of 50,000, which is set to grow to 174,000 over the next eight years, while turnover at large fleets stands at 88%, according to the American Trucking Associations.

The ABI Research report claims that companies such Tesla, Nikola and Uber, in addition to some well-established original equipment manufacturers, are engaged in a race to introduce highly or fully automated driving modes for their commercial vehicles.

Ms Beardslee added: “Safety and security issues regarding autonomous vehicles have been questioned as Uber suspended autonomous testing of its automotive fleet after a recent pedestrian fatality and a Waymo vehicle was hit in a head-on collision.”

“The benefits of labour and asset productivity, fuel and time efficiencies, and, clearly, safety, have significant implications on the adoption of highly automated and autonomous commercial vehicles.”