According to analyst firm Gartner, in 2019, net additions will be 332,932 units, with the growth predominantly coming from North America, Greater China and Western Europe, as countries in those regions become the first to introduce regulations around autonomous driving technology.
Gartner notes that net additions represent the annual increase in the number of vehicles equipped with hardware for autonomous driving, but don’t represent sales of physical units, but rather demonstrate the net change in vehicles that are autonomous-ready.
“There are no advanced autonomous vehicles outside of the research and development stage operating on the world’s roads now,” said Jonathan Davenport, principal research analyst at Gartner.
“With an over-the-air software update, these vehicles could begin to operate at higher levels of autonomy, which is why we classify them as ‘autonomous-ready.”
Gartner says that while the growth forecast for autonomous-driving-capable vehicles is fast, net additions of autonomous commercial vehicles remain low in absolute terms when compared with equivalent consumer autonomous vehicle sales.
“The number of vehicles equipped with hardware that could enable autonomous driving without human supervision in the consumer segment are expected to reach 325,682 in 2020, while the commercial segment will see just 10,590,” Gartner said.
Gartner also notes that today, there are no countries with active regulations that allow production-ready autonomous vehicles to operate legally, which is a major roadblock to their development and use.
“Companies won’t deploy autonomous vehicles until it is clear they can operate legally without human supervision, as the automakers are liable for the vehicle’s actions during autonomous operation,” said Davenport.
“As we see more standardised regulations around the use of autonomous vehicles, production and deployment will rapidly increase, although it may be a number of years before that occurs.”
And by 2026, Gartner says the cost of the sensors that are needed to deliver autonomous driving functionality will be approximately 25% lower than they will be in 2020.
According to Gartner, even with such a decline, these sensor arrays will still have prohibitively high costs - meaning that through the next decade, advanced autonomous functionality will be available only on premium vehicles and vehicles sold to mobility service fleets.
“Research and development robo-taxis with advanced self-driving capabilities cost as much as $300,000 to $400,000 each,” Davenport said.
“Sophisticated lidar devices, which are a type of sensor needed for these advanced autonomous vehicles, can cost upward of $75,000 per unit, which is more than double the price of your average consumer automobile. This puts higher-level autonomous vehicle technology out of reach for the mainstream market, at least for now.”
Noting that public perceptions of safety will determine growth, Gartner says that vehicle-human handover safety concerns are a substantial impediment to the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles - and currently, autonomous vehicle perception algorithms are still slightly less capable than human drivers.