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Published on January 15th, 2018 | by James Ayre


Report: Autonomous Vehicle Sales To Total More Than 33 Million A Year By 2040

January 15th, 2018 by  

A new report from the firm IHS Markit predicts that more than 33 million autonomous vehicles will be sold every year (worldwide) by 2040 — representing a huge surge in market interest in a relatively short period of time, as only around 51,000 units a year are predicted to be sold in 2021, according to the report.

Also noteworthy is that the report predicts that autonomous vehicles will comprise more than 26% of new car sales by 2040 — with the rapid spread of self-driving “robo taxis” being named as one of the primary drivers of the expected rapid market growth.

“The first autonomous vehicle volumes — beyond retrofit test vehicles — will arrive in 2019 through driverless mobility services,” noted Egil Juliussen, the director of automotive tech research at IHS Markit. “Volumes will surpass 51,000 units in 2021 when personally owned autonomous cars reach individual buyers for the first time, and IHS Markit forecasts estimate nearly 1 million units will be sold in 2025 across shared fleets and individually owned cars.”

If GM’s recent comments concerning the launch of fully autonomous taxis in select markets (accompanying the release of promo pics of the steering-wheel-less vehicle in question) are to be taken at face value, then they match the timeline discussed above. (There is always the possibility of course that the recent promo pics released by GM imply nothing solid and are just a PR gimmick, as some have implied.)

The press release provides more:

“The US market will see the first autonomous vehicle sales in the world, the IHS Markit forecast says, as many individual states and the nation as a whole are expected to adopt an industry-friendly regulatory approach. The first uses will be in mobility service fleets, which will provide early hands-on experience with the technology and help reduce consumer skepticism.

“Announcements from General Motors, Waymo and Uber contribute to early projected mobility fleet volumes in 2019 before personal autonomous vehicles become available as early as 2021. Total US volumes of autonomous vehicles are expected to reach 7.4 million units per year in 2040.

“Mobility services have taken hold in many Chinese cities already, and driverless variants are expected to maintain popularity with consumers. Additionally, the automotive and technology industries are aggressively closing the gap in key sectors including autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. Regulations on autonomous vehicle testing and deployment are expected soon in China, and will provide clarity for the industry to reach 14.5 million autonomous vehicle sales in 2040.”

In other words, the report predicts that by 2040, China’s autonomous vehicle sales will be roughly double those of the US.

The report also makes some interesting but somewhat unconventional predictions, such as this one: “European regulations are an obstacle to the same ride-hailing services that will drive initial deployment in the US, but European markets are especially strong in technology-rich luxury brands. As a result, according to the forecast, the balance in Europe will tip toward personally-owned autonomous cars over driverless mobility fleets, amounting to 5.5 million autonomous vehicle sales annually in 2040.”

I’m not so sure about that prediction — or about the relation between the figures in the US market and the European one (only slightly higher sales in the US by 2040). It seems more likely to me that by 2040 US figures will eclipse those in Europe to a larger degree — due to a greater need for car-use in general — but perhaps I’m incorrect in that prediction.

The expectation in the report is that autonomous vehicle sales outside of China, the US, and Europe, will remain relatively low (6.3 million a year by 2040) — which is also,something that I’m not completely convinced by. With a major shift in geopolitical alliances and reserve currencies, those numbers could end up quite a bit different. 


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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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