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Post written by:

Samuel Ropert

Smart Vertical practice leader

At a time when the automotive market is in the throes of a profound transformation, the alliance between Renault-Nissan and Waymo, and Apple’s takeover of Drive.ai, the latest report from Europe’s leading digital economy think tank, IDATE DigiWorld, delivers an analysis of the most advanced players, the autonomous car ecosystem’s development and sales forecasts for the next 20 years.

An Asian market topping the ranks

The countries of Asia-Pacific lead the way in autonomous vehicle sales, and are expected to stay on top up to 2040, for all levels of autonomy combined.

American carmakers are in second spot, but are likely to grow at a slower pace than their Asian counterparts. Despite which, they still lead the way in trial initiatives, and have already tested driverless cars in 35 cities. The European ecosystem is in third place, with trials having taken place in 33 cities.

Asia’s Internet giants gaining ground: the Baidu example

We expect to see new entrants in the market, which will drive a change in the sector’s business model by creating a new service economy. Companies that embrace this change include both automakers, such as PSA and Renault, as well as Internet giants like Google, Apple and Baidu.

Among these Big Tech companies, Baidu is the furthest along in terms of autonomous mobility technology, in addition to having invested massively in artificial intelligence. The Chinese heavyweight has, among other things, launched a robot-taxi service in the city of Changsha, using a 14-seat minibus prototype. The target is to have a fleet of 100 vehicles on the roads by the end of 2019.

Autonomous cars will take longer than expected to become a reality

We nevertheless need to put this market’s rise into perspective, as fully autonomous vehicles, i.e. levels 4 and 5, are not likely to be on the market until 2025 – 2030. Audi is the only automaker today to be selling intermediate (level 3) autonomous cars for consumers: the Audi A8.

Added to which, there is no shortage of ethical and regulatory issues surrounding driverless cars, which are impeding the sector’s development. Carmakers’ liability will be an issue when any accident occurs with vehicles below level 3. Which is why manufacturers such as PSA have stopped developing level 4 and 5 cars.

Not to mention the extremely high cost of building these vehicles, and ongoing concerns that these innovations are raising with consumers, all of which remain major hurdles.