Autonomous Driving is Becoming a Reality

By: Jack Cassel

Autonomous driving will continue to be a significant area of interest as well as investment for technology companies and automotive players in 2017. However, as the technical difficulties and regulatory challenges become more of a reality, the timelines for these types of vehicles will be extended. Many early predictions for the end of the decade are already being pushed out to 2021 and beyond.

This does not mean that automakers, tech giants and startups aren’t hustling to develop autonomous-related technologies and to bring them to market as soon as possible. They certainly will, and we expect to see a plethora of new developments in the autonomous driving field from numerous OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, traditional tech companies and disruptive startups.

From a technology perspective, there are several hurdles companies must overcome before the general public is ready for mass consumption. Even though the likelihood of an accident is considered much lower for self-driving cars than human errors, a fatal crash involving Tesla autopilot received substantial media attention as it was viewed as a new risk. This highlights the question of whether the car manufacturers or drivers should be responsible for insuring the self-driving cars and if they will be accepted by the insurance industry.

From a regulatory perspective, we expect autonomous vehicle legislation to progress in several states and more fleets will be deployed in cities around the country. We’ve already seen self-driving Ubers in cities like San Francisco and Pittsburgh. As the technology continues to advance and consumers become more comfortable with the notion, we’ll see more providers and cities adopt autonomous driving. At the same time, the debate around regulating autonomous trucking will continue to escalate. This presents President-elect Trump with competing priorities (reducing regulations on companies but also wanting to protect certain types of jobs). The most common job reported on tax returns is “driver”.

Despite these concerns, however, consumers, companies, and investors will see new advancements in the transforming space of assisted-driving technologies. From self-parking to crash avoidance to automatic breaking, assisted driving benefits will play a large role in adding to the realistic impact of fully autonomous driving in 2017. According to a TECHnalysis Research study, most consumers are more interested in these incremental enhancements, so we believe, current technologies will match the market’s demands.(1)

GrowthPoint predicts there will be continued consolidation in the industry. As Google, Apple, Samsung and Baidu continue to expand their investments and autonomous vehicle strategies, traditional carmakers will continue to make significant investments (i.e. GM invested $500 in Lyft in 2016) while exploring the possibilities of expediting this autonomous technology through additional investments and M&A activities. This stage of the autonomous vehicle development process is complicated, however, the dramatic increase of intent and investment strongly suggests autonomous vehicles are steadily approaching reality.

Source: TECHnalysis Research “New Study Shows Tech Influence on New Car Purchases Modest Among Consumers”, Sept 2016

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