Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
Sales of self-driving cars will balloon from 230,000 in 2025 to 11.8 million globally by 2035, a new study predicts.
That means because of the cumulative sales picking up speed every year, there could be 54 million self-driving cars in use around the world in 2035, says consultants IHS Automotive.
It's no longer a question whether such cars will be built, but how soon and how many. Already, virtually all major automakers are working on self-driving cars. The experiments started with technology giant Google and have spread to traditional auto companies. The IHS report comes as the Consumer Electronics Show is about to begin in Las Vegas, where Audi and Toyota unveiled self-driving technologies last year.
By 2050, IHS boldly predicts nearly all vehicles -- both private and commercial -- will be self-driving. It calls them SDCs.
"As the market share of SDCs on the highway grows, overall accident rates will decline steadily," says Egil Juliussen, principal analyst for autonomous driver assisted systems at IHS Automotive who co-authored the study with IHS Automotive senior analyst Jeremy Carlson. "Traffic congestion and air pollution per car should also decline because SDCs can be programmed to be more efficient in their driving patterns."
About three out of 10 self-driving cars sold globally will be in North America, IHS says.
Many car brands already have the precursor technologies needed for self-driving cars, like lane-keeping assist and automated braking. IHS says the first wave of self-driving cars will be limited to being more like autopilot systems on planes, in which the cars take over in relatively safe driving condition like open highway. Later in the 2020s, more sophisticated systems will come to market.
But self-driving cars will come at a steep price, adding $7,000 to $10,000 to a car's sticker in 2025. Like all technology, the price should then steadily drop. It will hit $5,000 in 2030 and about $3,000 in 2035.
There will be two big barriers to development. One is software reliability and the other is cyber security. Government will play a key role, having to set up rules that will govern deployment.