When we hear self-driving cars the first thing that crosses our mind is a car that is self-aware and mindful of making its own choices. We imagine a vehicle that is fully autonomous and can drive independently without any human assistance. Hence we use the term self-driving cars interchangeably with autonomous. But it is an incorrect perception.
A self-driving car market provides details about the business details of the cars that can drive itself in any given situation, but a human passenger must always be present and ready to take control. Manual intervention is not hundred percent eliminated in self-driving cars.
So driverless and autonomous can be used as synonyms, as are self-driving and automated. A truly autonomous car has the capability to decide on the destination and the route and also exercise control within the lanes. An automated car would follow orders about destination and route, and may only adopt some lane-keeping or car-following guidance.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has defined 6 levels of driving automation that has also been adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation. They range from Level 0 (fully manual) to Level 5 (fully autonomous). These levels are understood as follows
- Level 0-No Automation, total manual control
- Level 1- Shared control/ hands-on
- Level 2- Partial Automation/ hands off (ADAS)
- Level 3- Conditional Automation/ eyes off
- Level 4- High Automation/ mind off
- Level 5- Full Automation/ Optional use of steering wheel
The degree of human intervention gives the car category their respective level.
Difference between an autonomous/ driverless and a self-driving car
An autonomous car is capable of sensing its environment and can operate without human involvement. The presence of a human passenger is not required and the control of the vehicle at any time is fully automated. An autonomous car can travel anywhere like a conventional car and conduct itself as smoothly as any experienced human driver.
A self-driving car on the other hand is not as advanced as autonomous, as it may need a backup control of a human driver. It lacks the level of intelligence or independence required for complete autonomy. It can be subject to geo-fencing, unlike a driverless car.
Self-driving cars come under Level 3 (conditional driving automation) or Level 4 (high driving automation) whereas a fully autonomous is a Level 5 car.
Similarities in their functioning
Autonomous cars and self-driving cars both rely on sensors, actuators, complex algorithms, machine learning systems, and powerful processors for the execution of their software. Both use radar and lidar (light detection and ranging) sensors to monitor the position of nearby vehicles. The in-built video cameras detect traffic lights, decipher road signs, track other vehicles, and look for pedestrians. Their wheels have ultrasonic sensors to detect curbs and vehicles when parking. Both driverless(autonomous) and self-driving cars use their sensing software based on artificial intelligence to navigate the roads in relation to other objects while avoiding obstacles at the same time.
Benefits of Self-driving cars
Self-driving cars are not only convenient but their potential to improve quality of life is limitless.
- Reducing Traffic Congestion and CO2 Emissions- Self-driving cars are built to provide vehicle automation, vehicle electrification, and ridesharing. Hence, they can potentially reduce traffic congestion (decreasing 30% of vehicles on the road), consequently freeing up parking spaces for other uses (schools, parks, community centers) and lowering transportation costs by 40% (in terms of vehicles, fuel, and infrastructure). All this facilitates a reduction in urban CO2 emissions by 80% worldwide and helps in improving walkability and livability all around.
- Comfort and convenience- The elderly and the physically disabled can feel comfortable with enhanced convenience and independence. As part of Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving (LTAD), the National Sleep Foundation is working with self-driving technology company Waymo to educate people about sleep health and the adverse effects of drowsy driving. It explores how autonomous driving technology could reduce drowsy driving on our roads and prevent mishaps.
- Preventing road accidents- 40,000 people have reportedly been killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. Self-driving cars can prevent human error including driver fatigue or impairment in driving which is the primary cause of 90% of road fatalities. A self-driving car will not have the urge to hold a mobile phone behind the wheel nor the tendency to exceed speed limits or drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs or any other kind of distraction.
- The question mark on safety– The sensors and cameras used by autonomous cars are not always reliable, especially under certain conditions. A sensor, for instance, may not be able to see as clearly in fog or snow.
- Legal responsibility- There are also legal questions regarding accountability surrounding driverless cars. For one, lawmakers would need to decide who is responsible for accidents caused by the self-driving car-the manufacturer or the human passenger. Although presently the government regulates self-driving cars for commercial use, new regulations will have to be created once fully autonomous cars are available to the public.
- Different regulations for self-driving cars globally- Since each state sets up its own requirements and rules, it becomes increasingly difficult for car companies to produce autonomous cars that meet the varied requirements, a major challenge in getting more autonomous features to the market.
- Cyber security and privacy concerns- Currently self-driving and autonomous cars have 100 million lines of code. The future autonomous cars will have more than 300 million lines of code, hence cyber security is a growing concern. The hacking of the operations of self-driving cars makes them vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Self-Driving Car Market Synopsis
The Current and Estimated Market Size
The global self-driving cars market size is currently estimated at 21 million units as of 2022 and is projected to expand to 63 million units by 2032 growing at a CAGR of 14%.
Region dominating the market
The North American region is dominating the market of self-driving and autonomous cars, accounting for a 45 % share of total market revenue. This is primarily attributed to the amendments in traffic regulations in the U.S. There are over 1,400 self-driving cars in the US as of 2022 which are being tested by over 80 companies. Many states have passed self-driving car laws for easier adoption of smart car technology. A few states are working to put themselves at the forefront of autonomous technology development. Some states have passed legislation that explicitly legalizes the use of self-driving cars, while other states have passed more measured legislation aimed at autonomous vehicles.
Some states, such as Texas and California, allow a vehicle to be operated without a human, while others only allow the testing of autonomous vehicles. Presently, 33 states and the District of Columbia allow either autonomous vehicle deployment or testing. These laws are made for self-driving car companies that are testing products or for commercial autonomous vehicles like Waymo or Nuro as driverless cars are currently not for sale.
- California has been one of the first states to have tested AVs on public roads, with around 62 companies registered in California. Here the Contra Costa Transportation Authority is authorized to test the first fully autonomous vehicle not equipped with a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator on certain public roads.
- Texas has legalized the use of self-driving vehicles. Driverless vehicles are subject to two laws, first, the car must use a connected braking system to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, and second, the operator of the self-driving car should have the remote control and license to operate it.
- Florida has become the first state to allow anyone with a valid driver’s license to operate an autonomous vehicle on public roads. The presence of an operator is not mandatory in the vehicle, as per Florida’s law, but the remote operator must have the means to engage or disengage the autonomous technology if necessary.
- Michigan enacted a four-bill package in 2016 that allowed the use of autonomous vehicles on public roads and has eased testing restrictions for manufacturers, also allowing commercial use of autonomous vehicle technology. It has established the American Center for Mobility, a testing facility for connected and driverless cars.
- In Tennessee, local governments are prohibited from banning the use of autonomous vehicles. It also allows drivers to view a visual display, like a television or movie screen, in “Level 3” autonomous vehicles (which can be driven by both humans and technology).
- Virginia has passed a similar law.
- Louisiana has added autonomous vehicle technology definitions to its highway regulatory act
- Alabama, North Dakota, and Utah lawmakers have passed legislation for the study and evaluation of best practices and safety standards for self-driving cars.
Developments highlights in the United States in the last few years
- Tesla has raised the price of the feature it calls ‘full self-driving to $15,000. As per a report submitted by a news agency, out of 13 people who owned the “full self-driving” beta, 11 said they felt it wasn’t worth $15,000.
- The industry leader Waymo, an autonomous-driving tech company, and its parent company, Google, are widely popular when it comes to self-driving cars. In 2015, their first autonomous car was launched for a test drive on the streets of Austin, Texas. Since then, Google and Waymo have applied their driverless technology to an autonomous ride-hailing service and commercial trucking program.
- Domino’s had partnered up with the robotics company Nuro in Houston to launch a pilot program that delivers fresh-made pizzas via self-driving cars. The customers just had to opt in to Nuro’s R2 delivery service, meet the car outside when it arrived, enter an access pin to unlock the door and get their pizza.
- Lyft, Inc. a company based in San Francisco, California, offers mobility as a service, ride-hailing, vehicles for hire, motorized scooters, a bicycle-sharing system, rental cars, and food delivery in the United States and select cities in Canada. Presently Lyft has started offering self-driving vehicles on its ride-hailing app from partners Motional in Las Vegas, and Argo in Miami and Austin, Texas. It provides the experience of the future of AI and driverless technology along with a driver. Lyft riders can even request self-driving rides straight through their Lyft app. Lyft’s vehicles run in autonomous mode with safety operators sitting in the driver’s seat to monitor any emergency situations. These rides are tailored to customers’ travel preferences, including music and in-cabin temperature, and every self-driving Lyft car is also 100% electric.
The Asia Pacific region is close on the heels of North America with high revenue growth for self-driving cars anticipated in the coming decade. The growing innovations and use of technology by various car companies and trials throughout the Asia Pacific show a lot of promising potential for automated cars.
- In Singapore, more than 40 driverless vehicles have been tested and approved to ply Singapore’s roads since 2017. In fact, Singapore topped KPMG’s latest Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index in 2020, reflecting the city-state’s public acceptance, policy, and legislation efforts to encourage the use of AVs.
- In Japan, the government recently announced plans to have highly automated vehicles running in selected regions by the end of the year 2022.
- In China, driverless robotaxi services have already been launched in cities of Wuhan and Chongqing by Chinese tech giant Baidu. WeRide, a company that specializes in applying autonomous driving to intelligent transportation, freight, and sanitation has launched Robosweepe, a driverless sanitation vehicle. Shenzen-based DeepRoute.ai has managed to cut down the cost of a Level-4 autonomous driving solution to even less than $10,000. The Standing Committee of the Shenzhen Municipal People’s Congress in March 2021, has allowed road testing for Level 3 AVs.
- In South Korea, the government has unveiled a revised roadmap to improve regulations for self-driving cars, which will start with the launch of Level 3 AVs. Nevertheless, technologies such as advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) in vehicles that make features such as lane discipline functional, are also in place to take the burden off the driver and make the journey easier and smoother.
- In India, self-driving car startup Minus Zero has raised $1.7 million in a seed round led by Chiratae Ventures. The company has announced its plan to get its first vehicle on the road by late 2022 to early 2023. The Bengaluru-based startup has used a combination of camera-based vision and algorithms for its self-driving solution.
The European region’s self-driving car market is showing accelerated growth too. On 14th January 2022, the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic (1968) has been amended by 53 European countries. With the treaty’s revision, Level 3 autonomous driving has been authorized in Europe from 14th July 2022.
Prominent Players active in the Self Driving Car market
The major players in the market are Autoliv Inc. (Stockholm, Sweden), Aptiv (Dublin, Ireland), Daimler AG (Stuttgart, Germany), Baidu (Beijing, China), AutoX, Inc. (California, US), HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP (Seoul, South Korea), Volvo (Gothenburg, Sweden), Pony.ai (Fremont, California, US), Ford Motor Company (Michigan, US), Waymo LLC (California, US), Robert Bosch GmbH (Gerlingen, Germany).
Latest Strategic partnerships boosting the self-driving market
Several auto manufacturers are entering into strategic partnerships with tech companies to bring innovation to their self-driving launches. Moreover, conventional automakers are also joining hands among themselves for the development of such technologies.
- Honda has entered into an agreement with GM and its subsidiary Cruise for developing new self-driving cars. The joint venture has already made an investment of $750 million. Honda has reportedly planned to invest $2 billion over a span of 12 years.
- An MoU has been signed by Mobileye, Intel Corporation, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and BMW Group to make self-driving vehicles a reality by bringing solutions for highly automated driving (Level 3) and fully automated driving (Level 4/5) into production by 2021..
- ai, an autonomous driving company has entered into a partnership with Toyota Motor Corporation and raised USD 400 million to expand the mobility services that they provide.
- Mobileye, an Intel company, and Willer, a transportation service provider, have entered into a partnership in July 2020 to launch a self-driving Robo taxi service in the region of Japan and many other parts of Southeast Asia.
After having made big promises in the past, many companies have realized that building a fully autonomous vehicle was more difficult than they had anticipated. A lot of progress has been made with driverless technology in the past few decades, but still, a lot needs to be done. The planning and execution timetables are roughly a decade into the future.
While fully autonomous cars can offer plenty of benefits, the biggest hurdle they face is safety. That’s why the public rollout of autonomous cars is taking so long. Nevertheless, self-driving Level 3 cars are functional and are hitting the target of mobility very smoothly.
The potential impact of these cars is making companies and technology giants welcome them, and invest in research facilities, and testing programs that go along with self-driving cars.