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75 percent of cars will be driverless, by 2035

Posting in Technology

One day there will be millions of driverless cars on the road, but we'll have to wait a few decades before it's a reality.

A new report from Navigant Research estimates that sales of fully autonomous cars will grow from 8,000 per year in 2020 to 95.4 million per year in 2035, or 75 percent of all light-duty vehicle sales.

“Fully autonomous vehicles are unlikely to reach the market suddenly,” says David Alexander, senior research analyst with Navigant Research, in a statement. “Instead, progressively more capable systems that can assume control of certain aspects of driving will be introduced gradually.  The first features will most likely be self-parking, traffic jam assistance, and freeway cruising — well-defined situations that lend themselves to control by upgraded versions of today’s onboard systems.”

We're already seeing these sensor-filled, semi-autonomous features -- like automatic brakes, self-parking, and traffic-jam assistance -- being rolled out in cars, so why will it be so long before driverless cars are the norm? With major car companies and the likes of Google and IBM teaming up on driverless cars, the biggest challenges to mass adoption won't be related to technology, the report argues, but liability and legal issues. Some places -- like California and Nevada -- are already working to address those issues, but the issue of who is liable when crashes happen remains to be worked out. And, according to the report, "Automakers will be reluctant to assume responsibility for not only supplying the vehicles, but also safely operating them."

Photo: Flickr/Melody Kramer

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— By on August 25, 2013, 3:00 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure