As more people are becoming financially sound, the number of automobiles around the world is growing. This is leading to a lot of traffic congestion, which is made worse by large automobiles, such as buses and trucks. Another sad outcome of traffic growth is road accidents, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), lead to more than 1.3 million human deaths each year. This factor has awakened people’s consciousness, and they are now beginning to demand more safety features in vehicles.
P&S Intelligence credits this and the fact that most road accidents are a result of human error while forecasting that the autonomous commercial vehicle market will grow at a CARG of 8.2% between 2020 and 2030. A key development that is enabling the rollout of autonomous vehicles is the integration of connectivity features in automobiles. Connected vehicles feature roadside assistance, smartphone connectivity within themselves, automobile diagnostics, traffic and collision warnings, and real-time traffic monitoring. Many of these vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) connectivity features are a prerequisite for autonomous driving; thus, the evolution of connected vehicles is considered the first step in the direction of driverless vehicles.
Another factor that is encouraging automakers to experiment with autonomous driving is the allowance for such driverless vehicles in numerous countries. For instance, the SpanishDirectorate General of Traffic (DGT) has given the green light to autonomous vehicles up to level 5 to operate on the roads. In the same vein, in 2017, the German government amended the German Road Traffic Act, thereby allowing the autonomous driving system to take control of the vehicle from the human driver. This has spawned numerous pilot projects, wherein automakers are joining hands with tech companies, auto component providers, and even commercial entities to test these vehicles.
Currently, only semi-autonomous vehicles, which are those with up to level 3 autonomy, are available for sale, as fully autonomous vehicles (those with level 4 and 5 autonomy) are still in the testing phase. Level 4 vehicles will be launched in 2023, and level 5 vehicles in 2025. On the other hand, the biggest reason for the rising popularity of level 1–3 autonomous commercial vehicles is the government mandates in several European countries and the U.S. for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which essentially impart any commercial vehicle level 1 autonomy.
Of all applications, including logistics, construction, and public transportation, level 1–3 autonomous commercial vehicles are currently used the most for logistics. This is why between buses and trucks, autonomous trucks have witnessed higher sales till now. The expansion in the manufacturing, retail, and e-commerce industries is leading to the rising demand for freight transportation services, which is driving the expansion of logistics fleets. In the coming years though, autonomous buses will witness the faster rise in sales owing to their integration in public transportation fleets.
Presently, the North American autonomous commercial vehicle market accounts for the highest sales of such automobiles, on account of the early integration of self-driving technologies here than elsewhere in the world. Moreover, many companies, including General Motors Co., Waymo LLC,Tesla Inc., and Ford Motor Co., are involved in autonomous commercial vehicle designing, development, and testing projects in the continent. In the coming years, Asia-Pacific (APAC) will likely witness the fastest increase in the adoption of autonomous commercial vehicles due to its vast automotive sector and technological advancements in regional countries.
Hence, government efforts, industry growth, and the success of pilot projects will continue to drive the uptake of autonomous commercial vehicles across the globe.