‘Tis the season for looking ahead, and one of the most exciting technologies on the horizon is AVs (autonomous vehicles), including both personal AVs and transportation services, like autonomous taxis or “robotaxis.” New research delves into the projected robotaxi market, providing a glimpse into the potential future of shared transportation services in a connected, autonomous world. The road ahead isn’t free of obstacles, but the industry is already looking for ways to commercialize this transformative technology.

Autonomous mobility offers the promise of safety and efficiency. When AI (artificial intelligence) rules the roadways, roads won’t be subject to the consequences of human mistakes and human distraction. Vehicles will travel at a safe speed—not too slow or too fast. They’ll make safe driving decisions autonomously based on realtime feedback from the environment surrounding them, including the transportation infrastructure and the surrounding vehicles. The ideal scenario is that AVs will get people where they need to go in a safe, orderly fashion.

For mobility service providers, AV technology could eliminate their biggest liability and expense: human drivers. MaaS (mobility-as-a-service) solutions will rise to meet the demand of fleet owners looking to offer consumers an inexpensive alternative to buying and maintaining their own vehicle or vehicles. As the transportation paradigm evolves, it will most likely evolve in the favor of mobility service providers.

These concepts and technologies are being tested today. How long until the market is ready for them? IDTechEx recently released its “Autonomous Cars and Robotaxis 2020-2040” report on autonomous mobility services. The report suggests robotaxi services will become a $2.5 trillion market by 2040. The autonomous driving system market, which includes lidars, radars, cameras, computers, software, and maps, will reach $173 billion by 2040. In a scenario described as “moderate”, IDTechEx also predicts 30% of the total travel demand will be provided by MaaS by 2040, and global passenger car sales are expected to peak in 2031.

The implications for this shift in the transportation paradigm as a result of autonomous technology are marked. AVs will free drivers up to be passengers, and the time gained will allow for extra productivity or recreation. With fewer traffic injuries, there will be less of a strain on the healthcare and first-response systems. And with fewer traffic fatalities, more people will be able to live out their lives. Less traffic congestion will reduce the amount of carbon pollution pumped into the atmosphere, and it will free up commuters’ time even more by reducing the amount of time spent traveling to and from their destinations.

IDTechEx points out autonomous driving systems are still very expensive, but that’s expected to change in the next decade. As it does, the entire automotive supply chain will need to adapt, transitioning from the typical ecosystem of OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers) and suppliers to an ecosystem that also includes mobility service providers, hardware and software providers, and infrastructure providers.

While 2020 will probably look more or less the same as 2019 in terms of transportation, progress in the realm of AVs is being made, and by 2030, the status quo will be looking a little different. By 2040, the market for robotaxis and other autonomous mobility services will be booming, and the paradigm will be different—at least that’s the prediction. Let’s see how it plays out.

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