POLL RESULTS: Autonomous vehicle uptake will happen gradually

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The majority of transportation professionals believe that the uptake of autonomous vehicles will follow a path similar to other automotive technologies, such as airbags and anti-lock brakes, and happen gradually, over a number of decades, according to the results of the latest Traffic Technology Today poll.

With a total of 179 votes cast, 57% of transportation professionals thought it would be 2030, or later, before the majority of new cars would be sold with fully self-driving ability (level 4 autonomy). While the remaining 43% anticipated a swifter uptake, with this ‘tipping point’ being reached before the end of the next decade.

The vote followed the latest in our Big Debate series, published in the February/March edition of Traffic Technology International magazine. In the debate Todd Litman (right), founder and executive director of the Victoria Transport Institute, crunched the numbers from automotive technology history to predict that it will be around 2040 before autonomous vehicles represent more than 50% of new car sales.

“Vehicle innovations tend to be implemented more slowly than other technological changes due to their high cost, slow fleet turnover and strict safety requirements,” said Litman.

However, on the opposite side of the debate, Dr Alexander Hars (below), the editor of Driverless Car Market Watch, put forward the hypothesis that disruptive, autonomous vehicle technology won’t follow the uptake path of previous automotive technologies, because it will provide more immediate and tangible benefits.

“In the past it has taken decades for new automotive technology to catch on, that is because it was initially costly and the benefits were not always obvious. But with self-driving cars it will be very different, because they provide an immediate benefit: they give you back your time,” said Dr Hars.

The debate is certain to continue to rage. And perhaps, with autonomous taxi services being deployed, the ‘tipping point’ of general acceptance won’t be measured by new vehicle sales at all, but by number of trips taken in this type of vehicle.

Hear the latest autonomous vehicle research at the Autonomous Vehicle Test & Development Symposium in Stuttgart, Germany, next week. Last few seats remaining!

Plus, don’t miss the Autonomous Vehicle Safety Regulation World Congress, in Detroit (October 25-26)

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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