As automakers have recently made a major push toward realizing the dream of fully-autonomous cars, announcements of testing and production forecasts have heated up the conversation considerably. Auto industry analysis firm IHS Automotive has published a study predicting a timeline for the introduction of autonomous vehicles, and the results are definitively more conservative than what we’ve been hearing from automakers.
According to The Detroit News, the IHS study, “Emerging Technologies: Autonomous Cars — Not If, But When,” predicts that the first fully-autonomous vehicles, requiring no human input whatsoever, will be on the road by around 2030, while semi-autonomous cars with a kind of “autopilot” mode that requires the driver to be attentive will likely be available beforehand. Between 2025 and 2035, IHS expects global autonomous vehicle sales to balloon from 230,000 to 11.8 million, with just under 30 percent of overall sales coming from North America as of 2035. Sometime after just 2050, the firm forecasts that almost all cars on the road will be autonomously operated.
The study says costs for autonomous vehicle electronics will predictably come at a premium, likely between $7,000 and $10,000 over regular sticker price in 2025.That number is however expected to fall to $5,000 in 2030 and $3,000 in 2035, as autonomous vehicles gain mass-market traction.
Although Nissan has vowed to have an autonomous vehicle on sale by 2020, while Tesla, Volvo, and Ford have already declared plans for autonomous vehicle testing in the next few years, there are a lot of obstacles the overcome before this future arrives in full. IHS notes that technology risks such as software reliability and cybersecurity remain major concerns, not to mention the current lack of legal regulations and guidelines that would be needed for such a significant shift in the automotive landscape to take mass effect.
“The timeframe is challenging, but we believe achievable,” Nissan senior manager of technology planning Andy Christensen told The Detroit News. “What exactly the vehicle potentially is in 2020 honestly has yet to be determined in terms of the exact capabilities and what will be available. ... It is going to be a step-by-step approach.”
Regardless of whether or not Nissan, as it has promised, does offer some type of autonomous vehicle by 2020, it is clear that the inevitable introduction of autonomous vehicles will have a major effect on the automotive world as we know it. Issues like traffic fatalities, property damage, and infrastructure costs may be significantly reduced, but potentially at the cost of losing millions of jobs related to transportation and shipping.
Nothing can be said for sure as a result of IHS’s study, but it does confirm that the implementation and production of autonomous vehicles is indeed a hugely complex endeavor that will require many more years of research, hard work, and red tape.