Autonomous vehicles will become a reality by 2030, says Frost & Sullivan head of mobility for Africa Craig Parker.
This does not, however, mean that every car sold will be an autonomous vehicle, he adds, but rather that there will be around one-million level 5 self-driving vehicles on the road thirteen years from now.
There are five levels of self-driving vehicles, explains Parker. Level 2, for example refers to two levels of autonomy within a vehicle, such as cruise control and technology that assists the driver to stay within his or her lane.
Level 1 is characterised as ‘feet off’, level 2 as ‘hands off’, level 3 as ‘eyes off’, level 4 as ‘mind off’, and level 5 as ‘brain off’, or full self-driving.
There were 15-million level 2 vehicles on the road in 2016. It is expected that there will be two-million level 4 vehicles on road by 2025 and one-million level 5 vehicles by 2030.
Parker says autonomous cars will present a $60-billion-a-year market opportunity by 2030, 50% of which will relate to software, as the shift in responsibility for the vehicle moves from human to machine.
Three technologies that are developing rapidly, for example, are computer vision (the ability for the vehicle to see the world); natural language processing (how the vehicle and occupants interact), and machine learning (as the vehicle cannot be programmed to react to every possible event, the machine must be able to learn and adapt).
“The vehicle must learn how to drive in Africa, versus driving in Europe,” explains Parker.
He says artificial intelligence has “become a real thing”, with vehicle manufacturers investing heavily in this technology.
Autonomous vehicles, which will feature electric powertrains to a large degree, promise to fully disrupt the traditional automotive industry, as well as several other industries, adds Parker.
They will cause upheaval in terms of public transport (would we still require public transport if our vehicles drive themselves?); parking garages (vehicles can park themselves, which means the spaces can be smaller and the roof lower); fuel (electric vehicles need recharging, not fuel); car repairs (autonomous vehicles requires more sophisticated maintenance, electric vehicles less maintenance); insurance (who is responsible if an autonomous vehicle is in an accident), and taxis/ehailing (with 50% of Uber fares linked to the driver, how will driverless cars affect this industry?).
Parker says there are currently more than 1 700 start-up companies disrupting the automotive landscape, traditionally dominated by a number of large corporations.
The wave of change in the automotive industry and beyond will also hit the logistics industry, he adds.
Uber for trucks, or mobile-based freight brokerages, will generate more than $26.5-billion in revenue in North America in 2025. Also, around 20% of retail will be conducted through online channels.
Parker says autonomous trucks have been shown to use 7% less fuel, while maintenance costs have dropped by around 10%.
Looking beyond autonomous trucks, some radical changes in the logistics industry may include trucks driving around with a three-dimensional printer on board, printing the part necessary in case of a breakdown.
* Parker spoke at the FleetX conference, held in Midrand last week.