With advancements in 5G technology, autonomous vehicles are making great strides towards ubiquity. The global driverless car market currently sits at $33.48 billion in 2023, and is expected to reach USD 93.31 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 22.75% between 2023 and 2028.
What Is a Self-driving Car?
Advisory firm Gartner Inc. defines an autonomous vehicle as:
“…one that can drive itself from a starting point to a predetermined destination in “autopilot” mode using various in-vehicle technologies and sensors, including adaptive cruise control, active steering (steer by wire), anti-lock braking systems (brake by wire), GPS navigation technology, lasers, and radar.”
Today, there are over 40 autonomous car companies vying for a space in the industry. The global driverless car market is anticipated to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.75% between 2023-2028 as car manufacturers battle it out to claim as much market share as possible.
The Six Levels of Autonomous Vehicles
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) categorizes the level of vehicle autonomy in six levels. As the levels progress, the need for human intervention gradually decreases until the final level, in which full automation is achieved.
Here is a breakdown of the six levels of autonomous vehicles:
- Level 0: No autonomy whatsoever — Humans perform all driving tasks.
- Level 1: Driver Assistance — The vehicle is mostly controlled by the driver, but driver assistance features are present (e.g., adaptive cruise control.)
- Level 2: Partial Automation — The vehicle has autonomous features such as accelerating and steering, but the driver must stay alert and aware of all driving activities and surroundings.
- Level 3: Conditional Automation — Most tasks are automated, but the driver must still stay ready to take control of the vehicle.
- Level 4: High Automation — The vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions, but the driver has the option to override controls.
- Level 5: Full Automation — The vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under all conditions, but the driver has the option to override controls.
Autonomous technology is on the road today
Most vehicles on the road today offer level 2 autonomy of the autonomous driving standards set by SAE. Level 3 provides the ability to detect the surrounding environment. The jump from level 2 to level 3 automation requires significant technology advancements. In March 2021, Honda will be the first automaker to mass-produce vehicles with autonomous capabilities that meet SAE Level 3 standards.
Self-driving cars are on the road today
Most vehicles on the road today offer level 2 autonomy of the autonomous driving standards set by SAE. However, recent developments in Mercedes’ Drive Pilot system and other big auto competitors have brought level 3 to reality, which provides the ability to detect the surrounding environment. For instance, in March 2021, Honda became the first automaker to sell level-3 autonomous vehicles and currently plans to roll this technology out to the masses by 2029. Additionally, they plan to achieve a zero-fatality rate from auto crashes by 2050.
Today, self-driving features are being incrementally added to vehicles for autonomous control. In 2020, several buses and trucks completed autonomous missions. Meanwhile, each year more and more autonomous features are being added to vehicles in small increments.
Through a partnership with self-driving startup TuSimple, UPS alongside food service delivery company McLane, have already made great progress by integrating self-driving trucks into their delivery frameworks. Over in Florida, self-driving NAVYA shuttles are the transportation of choice to freight COVID-19 tests to Mayo Clinic.
In 2020, self-driving software company Aptiv and ridesharing company Lyft reached a major milestone: the companies crossed 100,000 rides of its autonomous passenger service in Las Vegas. The company now services over 3,400 spots in Las Vegas, including popular locations such as the Los Angeles Convention Center and McCarren International Airport.
The bottom line is that self-driving cars are already a reality and they will only become more ubiquitous as the technology improves.
Driverless car development hasn’t been a completely smooth ride
In March 2018, during a public road testing, a pedestrian, Elaine Herzberg was killed by an Uber autonomous car in Tempe, Arizona.
It was a hard year for Tesla as well, because, in that very same month, a fatal Tesla Model X car crash was recorded in Mountain View, California. The cause of death was linked to a mishap in the car’s Autopilot feature.
Several auto leaders have noted that Levels 4 and 5 (high and full automation, respectively) could be several decades away.
What’s preventing L4+ autonomy?
- Sensors do not work in inclement weather – e.g., an AV will not function in the loop at 7 PM in January when snow is falling.
- Algorithms cannot adjust to terrain changes like humans – e.g. switching from a smooth, paved road to a dirt trail.
- There are currently no defined FMVSS standards to qualify a vehicle as L4 or L5. Said another way, regulations have yet to be defined.
- OEMs, T1s, and high tech companies are having to bypass L3 because of the reliance on drivers to assume control when the AV can no longer operate the vehicle
5G technology brings us closer to the future of self-driving cars
The foundations for autonomous driving are fast and reliable communication networks. 5G network connections will have a major influence on the development of self-driving cars making them faster, smarter, and safer. Faster networks are the framework or foundation of technology trends that are driving the Industrial Revolution.
5G technology enables car connectivity so vehicles can connect to everything – other vehicles, the infrastructure, network services, and other road users. 5G is a critical enabler to all these technologies. Fast networks and connectivity allow autonomous cars to move around safely in the real world.
There are, however, some issues with getting the appropriate 5G coverage needed to make highly autonomous cars a reality. Telecom investments and network expansions are needed to support the 5G infrastructure.
Why autonomous cars are the future
There are numerous reasons why autonomous cars are the future of the automotive industry. The benefits to society are significant – fewer accidents, greater asset usage, less pollution, and greater access to mobility, to name a few.
Looking to the future, the annual production levels of robo-cars are expected to reach 800,000 units by 2030. Robo-cars are driverless entities boasting advanced driver-assistance systems of levels 4 and 5.
At least 20% of the total new car sales in China in 2030 will be for autonomous vehicles. And the country that is the readiest to adopt autonomous vehicles is Singapore.
In the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) anticipates there to be over 3.5 million self-driving vehicles on U.S. roads by 2025, and 4.5 million by 2030.
Autonomous cars being touted as an integral part of the future.
The bottom line regarding the future of self-driving cars
Automakers are forging full steam ahead with the development of self-driving technologies with promises to unveil more self-driving vehicles in near future.
In March 2020, Aptiv and Hyundai jointly formed Motional – promising to make driverless vehicles a safe, reliable, and accessible reality. In fact, in early 2023 their robo-taxis became available in Las Vegas.
In December 2020, Amazon’s Zoox unveiled its own autonomous robo-taxi.
The race is on to gain as much market share in what could be a very competitive and lucrative space.
Make your autonomous vehicle ambitions a reality with Liberty Advisor Group
Liberty’s hands-on automotive experience is why we are able to understand and appreciate the challenges that our clients face. The advisors in our Automotive & Mobility Practice do not have generalist backgrounds – they are Engineers and Computer Scientists who are passionate about the auto industry and how it continually evolves. Furthermore, they have worked across the entire vehicle development lifecycle along with the critical organizations that are responsible for bringing sedans, trucks, crossovers, and SUVs to market.
We are a goal-oriented, client-focused, and results-driven consulting firm. We are a lean, handpicked team of strategists, technologists, and entrepreneurs – battle-tested experts with a steadfast, start-up attitude. We collaborate, integrate, and ideate in real-time with our clients to deliver situation-specific solutions that work. Liberty Advisor Group has the experience to realize our clients’ highest ambitions. Liberty has been named as Great Place to Work, to the Best Places to Work in Chicago, and to FORTUNE’s list of Best Workplaces in Consulting and Professional Services.
Schedule a consultation with one of our strategists to map a way forward for your business today!