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LONDON -- Global driverless vehicle shipments will increase from 1.1 million in 2024 to more than 42 million in 2035, with an installed driverless vehicle base reaching 176 million. 

“While autonomous driving under the control of a human standby driver is quickly gaining acceptance, robotic vehicles mostly remain out of bounds, especially for car manufacturers, despite Google's recent announcement to start prototype testing. However, only driverless vehicles will bring the full range of automation benefits including car sharing; driverless taxis, and delivery vans; social mobility for kids, elderly, and impaired; and overall economic growth through cheaper and smoother transportation critical in an increasing number of smart mega cities. Many barriers remain but the path towards robotic vehicles is now firmly established with high rewards for those first-to-market,” says ABI Research VP and practice director Dominique Bonte.

Although there is progress on the technological side—both on sensor hardware and Artificial Intelligence—user acceptance, security, liability issues, and regulation remain huge bottlenecks. Single-mode driverless vehicles face the biggest hurdles towards adoption as Google has already experienced, forced by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test its prototypes with a steering wheel and brake and acceleration pedals firmly in place.

While the evolutionary character of autonomous driving, gradually appearing in small, incremental steps is often highlighted, removing the driver out of the equation represents a disruptive transition. However, this paradigm shift offers the opportunity to address mounting safety concerns about manual-autonomous handover management in co-pilot vehicles, rendering sophisticated HMI and driver monitoring systems superfluous. Removing the ambiguity about who is in charge—the vehicle or the driver—is acknowledged by Google as a critical step forward.

There is a great case for driverless vehicles, and the automotive industry should start preparing, instead of spending all its time, effort, and money on various complicated forms of semi-autonomous driving. However, it remains unclear if and when car OEMs will be ready for this “leap of faith” with Google already moving in to exploit the opportunity of leading the automotive revolution.

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