A new research report predicts that following the introduction of the first autonomous cars, sales of the vehicles will grow to reach 24 million by 2030.
The strategy report from Berg Insight, The Future of Autonomous Cars, also forecasts that there will be 71 million self-driving cars in active use on the roads by 2030.
These figures include cars featuring both Level 3 and Level 4 autonomy (as defined by SAE International).
Level 3 autonomy (conditional automation) describes self-driving vehicles that handle all of the operational and tactical aspects of driving, but expect the human driver to be able to respond to a request to intervene when required.
Level 4 autonomy (high automation) reflects a higher level of automation, where the self-driving vehicle handles all of these operational and tactical aspects of driving, even if a human driver does not intervene when requested.
If Level 2 capability is included in the figures, the report forecasts that as many as 177 million self-driving cars are likely to be active on the roads by 2030.
As self-driving cars take to the roads, they will open up completely new approaches to transportation, predicts the report.
“Fleets of autonomous cars could in the future handle entire cities’ need for personal mobility with much fewer vehicles than are used today,” write the authors.
The report also considers the distinct approaches being taken to the development of self-driving cars, with many incumbent car manufacturers pursuing an evolutionary approach that relies on the step-by-step development of driverless technologies.
This evolutionary approach is likely to see Level 3 cars available in 2020, with the rollout of Level 4 capable cars following by 2022, says Berg Insight.
In contrast, note the authors, many new market entrants such as Google, Uber and Baidu, are targeting a revolutionary approach.
This approach views Level 3 autonomy as less safe because of the exchange of control between a human driver and the vehicle, and therefore aims directly for Level 4 autonomy.
The report predicts that these vehicles will be introduced in 2022, but will initially only be available for use in specific environments, such as downtown shopping areas.
Ludvig Barrehag, M2M/IoT analyst at Berg Insight, said: “These pathways do not contradict each other as different autonomous systems are suitable in different use cases.
“We will continue to see development from both sides for still some years before the two approaches converge.”
However, say the authors, “It is important to recognize that autonomous cars will not arrive overnight.
“Even when a ready solution is available and regulations have been adapted to it, the roll out of self-driving vehicles to the broad market will take many years.”