Widespread Adoption Of Autonomous Vehicles At Least A Decade Away

A new forecast from S&P Global Mobility suggests that autonomous vehicle expectations have not been fulfilled and are facing more headwinds.

For the next decade, autonomous technology is expected to be limited to two areas: geofenced ‘robotaxis’ operated by fleets in specific areas, and hands-off systems with various safeguards in personal vehicles requiring some form of driver engagement.

Automated rather than autonomous driving continues to be the focus of industry development. According to the forecast, broad deployments of Level 2+ and Level 3 systems by many OEMs in multiple regions will reach at least 31 per cent of new vehicle sales globally by 2035. Level 2+ allows the driver to be hands-off while supervising, while Level 3 permits the driver to disengage entirely in specific driving scenarios, such as in Drive Pilot by Mercedes-Benz. At Level 4, the car’s systems are in total control of driving without any need for a human driver, even in the case of a system failure.

“A vehicle that can go anywhere and do everything a human driver can will not be publicly available before 2035, and probably for some time after that,” said Jeremy Carlson, Associate Director For The Autonomy Practice at S&P Global Mobility. “[However], the outlook for more targeted implementations of the same fundamental technologies, especially in Level 2+ and Level 3 but also for some forms of Level 4, is more positive and will certainly happen on a much shorter timeline.”

S&P Global Mobility predicts fewer than six per cent of light vehicles sold in 2035 will have any Level 4 functionality. While many technology providers focus on the long-term potential of scaling autonomous vehicles in fleets supporting Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) business models, challenges remain for widespread deployment. In addition to a fragmented regulatory landscape and relatively low public trust, the cost of technology, the time needed for robust development, and validation of hardware and software have reduced the optimism defining much of the last decade. Reduced complexity in Level 2+ and Level 3 limits risk or uncertainty, leading to a more positive outlook for these technologies in the short term.

Regardless of the challenges, S&P Global Mobility said OEMs, suppliers, technology companies and mobility providers remain committed to autonomous driving, even if it takes more time to get there.

“There’s plenty of opportunity and growth ahead,” said Carlson. “Significant volumes measured in the hundreds of thousands per year are quite likely to come before 2030, but a future of shared mobility everywhere all the time will remain an aspiration for the industry.”