Will self-driving cars solve your city's traffic congestion? Survey says not any time soon

Wed, 2015-02-11 06:00 -- Jesse Berst

Self-driving cars are such an appealing idea that they are currently undergoing a particularly intense case of the technology life cycle. That's the theory that new innovations first reach a peak of overinflated expectations, then a trough of disillusionment, before finally catching on.

Now that virtually every automaker is experimenting with autonomous technologies, the press is hinting they will be on the market Real Soon Now. And yes, we may see a few limited versions by 2020, things such as advanced cruise control. But a new IBM survey reveals that cars smart enough to negotiate downtown streets are at least 10 years away.


Council Lead Partner IBM's Institute for Business Value interviewed 175 executives from automotive manufacturers, suppliers and other thought leaders in 21 countries for its Automotive 2025: Industry without borders study. Discussions focused on customer expectations, growth strategies, mobility requirements, ecosystem disruption and other topics shaping the direction of the auto industry.

And while the study forecasts that the automotive industry will offer a greater personalized driving experience by 2025, it suggests fully autonomous vehicles or fully automated driving will not be as commonplace as some think.

The report underscores considerable skepticism about fully autonomous vehicles -- where no driver is required and the vehicle is integrated into normal driving conditions. A mere 8% of executives see it becoming commonplace by 2025. Moreover, only 19% believe that a fully automated environment -- where the driving system handles all situations without monitoring, and the driver is allowed to perform non-driving tasks -- will be routine by 2025.

On the other hand, 87% of those interviewed believe partially automated driving, such as an expansion of today's self-parking or lane change assist technologies will be commonplace by 2025.

Consumers will play a bigger role
"While the automotive industry has seen a resurgence in recent years, a new industry identity is emerging -- one that is more open, inclusive and without borders. Welcoming this transformation can result in benefits the likes of which haven't been seen since the automated assembly line," said Alexander Scheidt, Global Automotive Industry Leader, IBM Global Business Services. "By 2025, the industry will not only recreate our highly personalized and digitized lives inside our cars, but also give consumers a bigger role in defining that experience, whether as a driver or passenger."

The study found that 63% of the executives surveyed saw mobility services or car/ride sharing as an area for greater collaboration with consumers.

You can download the full report and an executive summary here.

Jesse Berst is the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council. Click to learn about the benefits you receive when you join the Council for free. Follow @Jesse_Berst and connect on LinkedIn.

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