Study: Autonomous car sales to reach 21 million by 2035

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

The United States will lead the deployment of autonomous vehicles to sales of nearly 21 million globally by 2035, according to a report released Tuesday by IHS Automotive.

The new sales expectations are nearly double a previous forecast from January 2014 of 11.8 million during the same time frame from the automotive advisory services and consulting firm. Deployment in the U.S., IHS Automotive forecasts, will begin with several thousand autonomous vehicles in 2020. That will grow to nearly 4.5 million vehicles by 2035.

IHS Automotive Director of Research Egil Juliussen said the increase is based on a wave of recent developments and investments in autonomous driving technologies, as well as activity within various regulatory environments.

“It’s moving faster than we thought,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday. “Many things happened to really kick up the investment and the intensity of the auto industry getting in there to not let the high-tech industry dominate this.”

Several automakers, including Detroit’s Big Three, this year have announced some sort of collaboration or takeover involving a technology or ride-sharing company.

Recent tie-ups for the domestic automakers include Lyft Inc. and General Motors Co. developing self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EVs that could pick up passengers; Ford Motor Co. making a major investment in Palo Alto-based software company Pivotal to develop cloud-based software for alternative mobility services; and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Google partnering to produce autonomous minivans.

Toyota Motor Corp. last year also pledged to spend $1 billion to form a research institute focused on artificial intelligence and robotics technology. It also hired 16 employees from Massachusetts-based autonomous-vehicle company Jaybridge Robotics Inc. for an undisclosed amount.

“There’s a lot of interest from many sources to try the self-driving and the driverless cars,” said Juliussen, adding the deployment will come from a combination of automotive and tech companies.

Juliussen said the most growth of autonomous vehicles over the next 20 years is expected to come after 2025, with a 43 percent compound annual growth rate.

“The numbers really kick up between 2030 and 2035,” he said. “If we went further, it will be even steeper growth after that ... 2035 is really when the technology is really ready to roll out for all types of uses.”

Although the United States is expected to lead the world in initial deployment and early adoption of autonomous vehicles, IHS Automotive expects Japan will simultaneously ramp up industry coordination and investment ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

Despite a later start, IHS Automotive also forecasts more than 5.7 million vehicles sold in China in 2035 will be equipped with some level of autonomy, the single largest market for the technology.

IHS forecasts incorporate a multitude of factors, including current market development of foundational technologies and considerable research and development announcements and collaboration projects under way.

“Future mobility will connect and combine many different modes and technologies, and autonomous vehicles will play a central role,” said Jeremy Carlson, principal analyst at IHS Automotive, in a statement. “IHS expects entirely new vehicle segments to be created, in addition to traditional vehicles adding autonomous capabilities.”

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