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Self driving cars to represent majority on road by 2035

Connected car is a huge potential market, but with OEMs demanding a slice of the pie, MNOs must innovate around business models to ensure they work for all parties to drive the industry forward

Advances in driver assistance and automation mean that some 2014 car models will offer semi-autonomous driving. Researchers looking into this sector forecast this week that as a result of these developments, autonomous vehicles will gradually gain traction in the market over the coming two decades and by 2035, sales of autonomous vehicles will reach 95.4 million annually, representing 75 per cent of all light-duty vehicle sales.

According to industry researcher Navigant Research, fully autonomous driving will be available by 2020, but significant hurdles still remain. Largely, these obstacles are not technological because advances in computing power and software development mean that features such as high-end image processing and sensor fusion are even now ready for production. Rather, the factors that remain to be solved before rollout to the public are those of liability and legislation. These issues will push the commonplace appearance of the self driving car back to 2035, the company said.

Individual advanced driver assistance features have been available in the luxury vehicle market for some years, but a notable advance came in 2012 when functions such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning were offered on standard cars for the first time. Combinations of these features are now being brought to market in some 2014 models to offer semi-autonomous driving, while increasing volumes and technology improvements mean that it is now feasible to install the multiple sensors necessary for such capability thanks to cost reductions.

But there is still some way to go for the ecosystem as a whole. Although there are already over one billion cars on the world’s roads today, according to research firm Ward’s Auto, and automotive manufacturers have already put plans into action to ensure that the majority of new cars will be equipped with broadband connectivity, demand for vehicles with internet connectivity has been relatively sluggish to date. This is largely due to the economic downturn. With cars representing a substantial purchase for consumers, demand for new vehicles in Western Europe has been low in these difficult times. September 2012 marked the 12th consecutive month in which new car sales dropped in the EU; traditionally one of the strongest markets for new vehicles, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.

Moreover, connected cars currently present the least potential service revenue opportunities for mobile operators, according to data from the Telecoms.com Intelligence Industry Survey 2013. When asked to rate non-telco sectors on the potential service revenue opportunities they offer to mobile operators, 63.3 per cent of respondents rated the automotive sector as offering very low to average opportunity.


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