Driverless car market worth $87 billion by 2030

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There’s no one at the wheel, but there may be gold under the hood in the coming generation of “driverless cars.”

Despite considerable skepticism, “autonomous” self-driving cars have become part of a hot tech trend that is proving to be a major business opportunity. A report released this week suggests that cars with self-driving features will create an $87 billion global industry by 2030.

Google has conducted extensive road testing of its driverless cars, and the biggest names in the car business in Europe, North America and Asia are jumping on the driver-free bandwagon.

“We have seen a lot of activity and a lot of hype in the automotive value chain,” said Cosmin Laslau, lead author of the report from Lux Research.

Every modern vehicle has some autonomous functions such as cruise control, putting them into what engineers call Level 2. Level 3 cars have fully autonomous driving but require the driver to take over at certain intervals. Level 4 cars, the holy grail of the industry, are fully autonomous with zero input from the driver.

The Lux analysis notes that a few major companies have jumped at the booming market, investing sizable chunks of money into the development of automated vehicles.

“The industry is well aware of this and [is] starting to make the partnerships [to] get the funding to get there,” said Mr. Laslau. “That being said, some are more aggressive than others.”

Automotive players such as Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Ford have touted self-driving vehicles on the agenda for the next decade.

Volvo’s self-driving vehicles are scheduled to be launched by 2017. As part of the company’s Drive Me project, 100 of these autonomous vehicles are being driven on the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Volvo’s autonomous car project is carried out by Volvo Car Group, the Swedish government, the Swedish road administration and other partners. The total investment is around $75.9 million.

Eyes and ears

With sophisticated sensors, radar, lasers and advanced mapping technology, these self-driving cars have eyes and ears on the roads, theoretically allowing the driver to sit back and relax.

“The test cars are now able to handle lane following, speed adaptation and merging traffic all by themselves,” Erik Coelingh, Volvo Car Group technical specialist, said in a statement. “The technology, which will be called Autopilot, enables the driver to hand over the driving to the vehicle, which takes care of all driving functions.”

Automakers hope the next generations of driverless cars will carry even more autonomous features.

The Lux report suggests that Level 1 vehicles, with no autonomous features, will be obsolete by 2030. Level 2 cars with some autonomous features will represent 92 percent of all cars sold, and Level 3 cars will make up 8 percent of all cars sold.

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