54 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2035, study finds

Self-Driving CarSelf-driving cars aren’t expected to begin hitting the road until 2020, but a new study predicts that once they’re here, they will quickly become a common sight.

By 2035, nearly 54 million autonomous vehicles will be in consumers’ driveways worldwide and annual sales of the vehicles will reach almost 12 million, according to the study by IHS Automotive. After 2050, the study predicts that nearly all of the vehicles in use — both personal and commercial — will be self-driving.

One of the biggest impacts from such widespread use of self-driving cars (SDCs) will be safety, according to the study’s co-author, Egil Juliussen.

“Accident rates will plunge to near zero for SDCs,” said Juliussen, a principal analyst for infotainment and autonomous driver-assisted systems at IHS Automotive.

Though human-driven cars will still crash into autonomous vehicles, “as the market share of SDCs on the highway grows, overall accident rates will decline steadily,” Juliussen said.

Traffic and air pollution will also decline as a result of self-driving cars because their driving patterns will be programmed to minimize their impact on the environment, Juliussen said.

The IHS study projects that worldwide sales of self-driving cars will rise from around 230,000 in 2025 to 11.8 million in 2035. Seven million of those vehicles will allow both driver and autonomous control, while the other 4.8 will be autonomous control only, IHS estimates.

Globally, North America will have the largest share of SDCs in 2035, with 29%, while China and Western Europe will account for 24% and 20%, respectively, according to the study.

Yet there will be several hurdles autonomous vehicles will need to clear in the coming decades, the study predicts.  >more