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Why Autonomous Vehicle Adoption will Grow Slowly

By 2025, just about 15 percent of new passenger car sales worldwide will be autonomous vehicles, with either conditional or full autonomy (level 3 or level 4) capabilities, according to the latest market study by Canalys.

Canalys also estimates that only 1.3 percent of cars sold in 2016 will offer partial autonomy (level 2) and the only cars with conditional or full autonomy in 2016 are for research and development purposes or being used in small public trials.

The few cars available in 2016 with level 2 autonomy come from premium car brands, and the functionality is an optional feature. Autopilot from Tesla, Pilot Assist from Volvo, Intelligent Drive from Mercedes-Benz, and Traffic Jam Assist from Audi and BMW are the leading examples of level 2 autonomy solutions.

Autonomous Vehicle Market Development

The functionality has taken a long time to reach the market in volume, reflecting the slow pace of innovation and the high level of conservatism in the regulation-bound automotive industry. But things are changing: most automotive OEMs have announced launch plans for autonomous vehicles.

"For the first few years of autonomous driving, vehicles will have hybrid autonomy – switching between levels of autonomy depending on the driving environment, the type of road, the speed of traffic or mood of the driver," said Chris Jones, chief analyst at Canalys.

Full autonomy, which does not necessarily need the human driver, will be possible on pre-defined stretches of road, specific lanes of a freeway, zones of a city, campuses or autonomous vehicle-only car parks.

Human drivers will choose what mode to use and the journey could, but doesn't have to, involve a mix of human and machine driving. In full autonomous mode, the vehicles could simply drop off passengers at their destination and drive themselves away to less congested areas to park, or make themselves available to be hailed as a shared transport service.

How we own, use and interact with cars is already changing, according to the Canalys assessment. Fewer young people are obtaining a drivers license -- many prefer alternative forms of transportation. Therefore, Canalys believes that automobile sales will soon start to decrease in large urban markets.

New Trends will Transform Urban Areas

Meanwhile, regulators will embrace the new technology and work with automotive OEMs to help ease the transition onto major highways and urban roads. Moreover, the required autonomous vehicle technology should not dramatically affect the cost of a vehicle. Several things must occur first.

Sensors must get smaller and cheaper. The public must trust the systems and their capabilities must be well communicated. Urban planning will need rethinking to allow for an autonomous future, which would ease and ultimately eliminate congestion and increase safety on large city roads.

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