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A pipe dream? Analyst says we'll all be driven by our cars by 2026

Posting in Transportation
A Morgan Stanley analyst predicts that by 2026, autonomous vehicles will be a commercial reality, and eventually we will all own one. 

The analyst, Adam Jonas, said in a note to clients that self-driving cars have the potential to contribute $1.3 trillion in annual savings to the U.S. economy alone. Within the note, Jonas suggests that we are currently in the 'passive' stage, where autonomous vehicle technology is advancing rapidly. By 2015 we can expect limited driving solutions to be on the market, and by 2018, autonomous cars will be on the road.

In 2026, he says autonomous vehicles will reach a market penetration of 100 percent.

"There will undoubtedly be bumps in the road as well, including the issues of liability, infrastructure, and consumer acceptance," Jonas says. "However, none of these issues appears insurmountable."

The analyst is not the only one to offer such predictions about the future of driverless cars. Navigant research also says that by 2035, "sales of autonomous vehicles will reach 95.4 million annually, representing 75 percent of all light-duty vehicle sales."

The technology may be there, but the infrastructure may not. Within the U.K., for example, British roads have prompted the joke that "we used to drive on the left side of the road, and now we drive on what's left of the road." Potholes and patchwork repairs have resulted in uneven and sometimes frankly dangerous conditions -- and if proper repairs began now, it would still take at least a few decades to fix. 

It is unlikely the U.K. is the only country in such a mess, and without a safe, core infrastructure, the idea of letting our cars drive us is unlikely to capture many a consumer's heart -- not to mention the questions of how autonomous vehicle technology would account for unexpected conditions, manual drivers or potential hazards. In addition, regulation is likely to be a problem -- if an autonomous car is involved in an accident, is the passenger or manufacturer going to be responsible?

Considering how far the technology needs to come, it seems like a pipe dream to expect autonomous cars to be on the road in only four years. 


Image credit: Google

— By on February 28, 2014, 2:33 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure