Could Driving be Outlawed by 2050?


August 31, 2021

A new report from strategic research firm IDTechEx said autonomous cars will match or exceed human safety by 2024, after which it will continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30%. By 2050, driving will be outlawed as autonomous vehicles are proven to be vastly superior in terms of safety and collisions when compared to human driving, the company said.

In its report, “Autonomous Cars, Robotaxis & Sensors, 2022-2042,” the firm covers safety and regulation, which is a key barrier for adoption of autonomous vehicles. The company picked 2050 after an analysis of autonomous disengagement reports from the California DMV, which reveals the maturity of current autonomous testing. The top players in this space, including Waymo and Cruise, are currently traveling about 30,000 miles between disengagements, in which a human safety driver needs to take over. 

“If this growth is sustained, by 2046, autonomous vehicles will meet the total mobility demand of the U.S. (3 trillion miles) without a disengagement,” the company said. “By 2050, they could meet the world’s transportation needs with fewer than one collision per year. Should humans be allowed to continue driving when we cause millions of injuries and hundreds of thousands of fatalities in car crashes per year? No, driving will be outlawed.”

IDTechEx DMV800px

IDTechEx suggests that several cities are beginning to adopt car-free areas, as well as clean air zones that control the type of vehicle allowed in the city. As autonomy matures, these zones could soon become autonomous-only zones, mandating that travel inside a city be relegated only to autonomous systems. “Eventually, manual driving could become completely illegal on public roads in the interest of safety,” IDTechEx said. “This is not to say that manual driving will completely disappear, but may be relegated to a sport, reserved for racing and track days.”

The report’s author, James Jeffs, writes that regulations around how the technology should work, and liability in the event of an accident, have started to improve. This has allowed regions, including Japan, Germany and the U.K., to have Level 3 vehicles on their roads by the end of 2021. IDTechEx said it expects significant adoption of Level 3 and Level 4 technology within the car market over the next 10 to 20 years, causing a huge disruption to the automobile sector’s century-old business models.

“Given the current state of trials and existing plans for further expansion from key players, IDTechEx believes 2023 will be the start of the AV revolution,” Jeffs writes. “IDTechEx expects that the trials will grow within their existing cities and then spread from city to city much in the same way as ride-hailing platforms (Uber, Lyft, Didi, etc.) did over the past decade.”

SensorCost IDTechEx

The report also found that autonomy will create massive opportunities in the automotive sensors industry, with progress in cameras (including infrared and event-based detection), radar, lidar and supporting technologies such as connectivity and teleoperation. “Within the key three sensors we see adoption of higher resolution cameras and higher frame rates, advancements in the performance and power of radar, and significant cost reductions in lidar,” the company said.

For additional details around the report, visit the IDTechEx website here.

Editor’s note: Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

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