Safety mandates forecast to drive autonomous car sales

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TOKYO -- Self-driving cars may take another decade to hit U.S. roads, but their sales then will expand quickly due to new safety mandates, predicts IHS Automotive.

After the first autonomous cars appear in North America in 2025, IHS forecasts they could account for 5 percent of the vehicles on North American roads by as early as 2035.

U.S. and Canadian sales of fully autonomous vehicles will be around 100,000 units shortly after their 2025 debut there, IHS Senior Consultant Danny Kim said at a conference here.

But North American volume will quickly climb to 3.5 million by 2035, or about 18 percent of annual sales that year, IHS predicts. Globally, sales of self-driving cars will reach 12 million in 2035, or about 9 percent of worldwide volume.

Mandates

The driving force behind the trend will be new government mandates for vehicle-to-vehicle communication technologies that improve safety and enable self-driving features.

“2025 is the first year you’ll see completely automated self-driving cars,” Kim said. “But the V-to-V mandate will accelerate the adoption of autonomous car technologies.”

Vehicle-to-vehicle technologies alone do not make a car autonomous. But they are seen as necessary for cars that can drive themselves.

IHS predicts that the U.S. government will mandate vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V, systems in all new cars around 2023. By 2025, about 25 percent of all vehicles on the road will be V2V enabled, it says. It will take another decade for all cars on the road to sport V2V systems.

Hurdles

The IHS outlook is more conservative than that of some early backers of autonomous cars. Nissan Motor Co., for example, said last summer that it will have the technology ready to start selling a self-driving car by 2020.

Even with the mandates, plenty of hurdles still remain to wider adoption. “There are a lot of things to achieve over this and the next decade,” Kim said.

In addition to technological and cost challenges, regulatory questions remain, including who is liable for accidents in self-driving cars.

“You need to work with all the industry partners, like insurance companies, to set the rules on all those things,” Kim said. “It’s not just about technology but about infrastructure.”

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter


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