Driverless cars to hit by 2025

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While there are a lot of different automakers and tech companies working on driverless cars at the moment – Google, Baidu, Audi, BMW, Volvo and many more – and trials are set to take place in different US states and the UK this year, nobody really expects the technology to become viable for good few years yet. When it does become available it won’t be exactly cheap either, so may take some time until it really catches on. Some have speculated that we won’t see it become a common site until as late as the 2040s, but Boston Consulting Group thinks that we’ll first see the technology in one guise or another in just a few years time, while by 2035, upwards of 10 per cent of all cars will be automated.

As part of its report, released yesterday, the business analyst group stated that it believes we’ll start to see the first, true automated technology arrive in 2018. As it stands, there are cars that can park themselves and there are some safety features like autonomous emergency braking and blind spot monitoring, that don’t require any input from the user whatsoever. However, in 2018, the group believes we’ll see the first cars that can drive entirely automatically on the motorway, switching lanes as needed and driving at appropriate speeds.

Completely piloted cars, that can drive anywhere in almost any condition, will arrive in the mid ’20s, with the technology really starting to catch on shortly after, as at that point there will have been years of stop-gap solutions easing people into the idea of our cars driving us around.

Google's Pod Cars are the most iconic automated vehicles at the moment.

Google’s Pod Cars are the most iconic automated vehicles at the moment.

“This will be as radical a change as the auto industry has seen in 100 years,” said Thomas Dauner, head of BCG’s global automotive practice.

Even though it will gain quite rapid acceptance, due to the irregularity that people buy vehicles, the BCG doesn’t think we’ll see 10 per cent of all cars running by themselves until 10 years later, in 2035. However, at that point over 12 million of them a year will be sold, so they will become a far more common site on the roadways, especially in big cities.

What is a little more uncertain, is how driverless cars will change our driving habits. While 10 per cent of all cars may be driverless, we may use those more than anything else in the form of taxis, buses and other public transport offerings, rather than buying a new car ourselves. For infrequent drivers, it would be much cheaper to use those more economical (thanks to not having to pay a driver) public solutions.

However the uptake could be quicker than expected. As PressTV reports, as many as 44 per cent of Americans would consider buying an automated vehicle already.

While we don’t want anyone to rush the technology and risk scaring the public away from its many benefits, this could mean that whichever company gets to market with it first, stands to benefit in a big way.

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.