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Expect over 740K autonomous-ready vehicles by 2023

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Over 740 000 autonomous-ready vehicles will be added to the global automotive market by 2023.

This is according to a new report by Gartner, which found that worldwide net additions of vehicles equipped with hardware and software that can enable autonomous driving without human supervision, will see a significant increase from 332 932 units in 2019 and 137 129 units in 2018.

Net additions represent the annual increase in the number of vehicles equipped with hardware for autonomous driving. They do not represent sales of physical units, but rather demonstrate the net change in vehicles that are autonomous-ready, notes Gartner.

This growth, according to the report, will predominantly come from North America, Greater China and Western Europe, as countries in these regions become the first to introduce regulations around autonomous driving technology.

“There are no advanced autonomous vehicles (AVs) outside of the research and development stage operating on the world’s roads now,” says Jonathan Davenport, principal research analyst at Gartner.

“There are currently vehicles with limited autonomous capabilities, yet they still rely on the supervision of a human driver. However, many of these vehicles have hardware, including cameras, radar, and in some cases, lidar sensors, that could support full autonomy.

“With an over-the-air software update, these vehicles could begin to operate at higher levels of autonomy, which is why we classify them as ‘autonomous-ready’.”

While the growth forecast for autonomous-driving-capable vehicles is fast, net additions of autonomous commercial vehicles remain low when compared with equivalent consumer AV sales.

Vehicle-human handover safety concerns are still a substantial impediment to the widespread adoption of AVs. Currently, AV perception algorithms are still slightly less capable than human drivers, says Gartner.

According to research firm Market Watch, the global self-driving car market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 36.2%, leading to global revenue of $173.15 billion by 2023.

Speaking at the Smarter Mobility Africa 2019 Summit last month, Andrew Kirby, president and CEO of Toyota SA, said it will take over 10 years before AVs become a reality in SA.

“I'm a little sceptical about the roll out of fully autonomous vehicles in SA, due to the challenges we face with road quality and infrastructure, technological advancements, smart cities and urban planning, as well as legislation. We need real-time data transfer between vehicles and also between the vehicles and the infrastructure, in order to create a conducive environment for autonomous vehicles.”

Lack of regulation

Vehicle manufacturers and governments across the globe are spending billions of dollars on preparing for the AV market.

Gartner points out that currently there are no countries with active regulations that allow production-ready autonomous vehicles to operate legally, which is a major roadblock to their development and use.

“Companies won’t deploy autonomous vehicles until it is clear they can operate legally without human supervision, as the automakers are liable for the vehicle’s actions during autonomous operation,” explains Davenport.

“As we see more standardised regulations around the use of AVs, production and deployment will rapidly increase, although it may be a number of years before that occurs.”

In April, former transport minister Blade Nzimande explained in a parliamentary question and answer discussion, that while there are plans for driverless vehicles in SA, introduction will not take place in the immediate future, due to policy and legislative amendments that would need to take place.

According to ResearchAndMarkets,com, the US is considered as the major hub for companies in AV development, with some of the country's automotive vehicle manufacturers strongly focusing on establishing AV fleet and ride-hailing services.

In 2018, the US Department of Transportation published the "Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0", a guide for explaining its approach to autonomous vehicles.

The UK has started altering its standards and regulations, and has also offered financial support for introducing driverless cars in the country by 2021.

Germany is considered as one of the major European countries for research and development, and industry partnerships for AVs. The German fully-autonomous vehicles market is projected to reach $28 billion by 2030.

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