The race of commercial autonomous cars
Carmakers are in a race to launch the first commercial autonomous c a r s , wit h companies including BMW, Tesla, GM and Nissan busy testing various autonomous drive technologies. Volvo’s f irst self-driving test cars are already on the road in Gothenburg, as part of an initiative with the Swedish government, while Nissan, whose autonomous drive technology has been tested on public roads in Japan, is planning the commercial launch of a model with traffic jam autopilot late next year
Tesla, founded by Pretoria-born billionaire Elon Musk, may be the first carmaker to roll out models capable of hands-free driving (offering single-lane highway autopilot) by the middle of the year, according to a new report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
“The auto industry is at its most significant inf lection in a century,” said Xavier Mosquet, a senior partner and managing director in BCG’s Detroit off ice, in a statement. “Self-driving vehicles will hit the road sooner than many people realise. And although the journey to market maturity will take 20 years or more, it’s not too soon for auto executives, regulators, and all players in the transportation and tech spheres to start preparing for the sweeping changes on the horizon.”
By 2017, autonomous vehicles (AVs) capable of traff ic jam autopilot and autonomous valet parking should be on dealer’s lots, followed by highway autopilot with lane changing in 2018, BCG said. Vehicles capable of urban autopilot could be ready in 2022, paving the way for fully autonomous vehicles by 2025, it said. Mercedes is one of the carmakers that expects to debut its first fully autonomous model in 2025.
Developing sensor technology and integration software – which is expected to cost around $1bn (R11.9bn) per original equipment manufacturer (OEM) – will be one challenge. Vehicles will also have to be made secure from cyberattack, uncertainty over liability must be resolved, social resistance overcome and high-precision maps developed, BCG said.
Should carmakers be successful in overcoming these challenges, a huge market opportunity awaits. The BCG study found more than 50% of consumers would likely buy a partially self-driving car, while more than 40% would buy a fully self-driving vehicle. Of the survey respondents, 14% said they would be willing to pay $5 000 (R60 100) extra for highway autopilot functionality alone.