Self-driving cars will dominate the market

PUTTY. becomes reality. David Hasselhoff's intelligent black talking Pontiac from the Knight Rider series was the hero of the 80s. He was unique. But that will change in the foreseeable future. Because from 2035 almost 100 million autonomous cars could be sold annually. You drive all by yourself - the person behind the wheel becomes superfluous.

A new study by market researchers at Navigant Research comes to this forecast. For comparison: In 2012, only 60 million cars were produced worldwide. In twenty years it should be 130 million. Autonomous cars would then have an absolute majority in the global car market with a share of around 75 percent. Today there are no more than a few prototypes.

"It may well be that so many driverless cars will be sold in 2035," says Raúl Rojas, Professor of Intelligent Systems and Robotics at the Free University (FU) Berlin. "However, I doubt that their share in the total number of all cars will actually be that high."

Because before they can be used by the masses, the independent cars still have to negotiate a few obstacles. The hardest part: the legislation. So far, no country in the world has allowed completely autonomous driving. At least one person must always be on board to intervene in an emergency. Changing that is, according to Navigant Research, the most urgent problem in further development.

Who is liable if the autopilot fails? The second obstacle is the cost to customers. Manufacturers always install modern technology in expensive cars before they gradually transfer it to cheaper models. It is questionable whether that will happen by 2035.

Last but not least, there is the question of insurance. Who is liable if two robotic vehicles crash into each other?

Regardless of the many unresolved issues, the auto industry has ambitious goals. Nissan, for example, plans to launch its first autonomous car as early as 2020. Other manufacturers such as Daimler, Audi and VW are also developing their own models under high pressure. Probably the most popular example is Google's lateral entry into auto-robotics.

Automatic parking aids, warning systems for unintentional lane changes or automatic traffic jams are already available at Mercedes as standard. In seven years, says Rojas, the autopilot for the autobahn will be fully developed.

Green to the destination - just not in your own car The intelligence of the car has great potential: It not only makes road traffic safer, but also more environmentally friendly.

Safer because the cars can communicate with each other using location information. “There will be practically no more accidents at intersections because every car knows exactly whether the path is clear or not,” says Rojas. In addition, sensitive sensors, such as those in the Navia electric vehicle, already recognize whether there are pedestrians or obstacles in their path.

Traffic is becoming more environmentally friendly because autonomous cars make private cars superfluous. Cars could be on the road like taxis, picking up people and creating spontaneous car pools. Similar to local public transport, it is conceivable to combine the services in a monthly subscription. The only question is: If nobody owns a car privately, why should so many of them still be sold?

Incidentally, the first autonomous vehicles have long been on German roads. For example in Berlin, where three TÜV-approved cars belonging to the “Artificial Intelligence Working Group” of the Free University of Berlin have already covered almost 30,000 kilometers since 2011. As part of the "Stadtpilot" project, the Technical University of Braunschweig had already brought the world's first autonomous car into city traffic a year earlier.

And this video shows what it looks like when nobody drives:

Follow Matthias Streit on Twitter: @MatthStr

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