As automotive technology continues to evolve – despite naysayers – autonomous vehicles (AVs) and connected vehicles are becoming more mainstream, and the collision repair industry may already be feeling some of the impact.
Close to 60 million vehicles in the United States alone are equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control and crash-avoidance systems. Big changes towards full autonomy are expected within the next few years, but technology, regulations, infrastructure, societal acceptance, as well as other factors, all need to align.
Many original equipment manufacturers (OEMS) have said they plan to sell self-driving vehicles between 2020 and 2025. However, each automaker has its own amalgamated sensor suite – a combination of the three main groups of sensor systems: Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), radar and camera systems – supplemented by other sensors such as ultrasonic and other source inputs for its AV designs. That means there is currently no industry standard.
Several technological hurdles also still must be cleared, including the ability to test a wide range of both software and hardware solutions in various operating environments. There are also many regulatory and infrastructure obstacles.
The most-advanced AVs (also referred to as self-driving or driverless vehicles) are expected to be completely electric, defined as Autonomous, Connected, Electrified and Shared (ACES). Other terms used in the industry to define AVs include Shared Autonomous Electric Vehicles (SAEV) and Connected Autonomous Shared Electric Vehicles (CASE).
Other important issues beyond technical considerations also have to be addressed – such as cybersecurity concerns, who will be liable if the vehicle crashes, how it will be insured, etc. – before completely self-driving vehicles will be available for sale in the United States to the general public.
Despite this, automakers, tech giants and specialty startups have invested at least $50 billion during the last few years to develop AV technology. To that end, automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are increasingly looking at themselves as mobility providers than simply as a vehicle manufacturer, causing manufacturers and suppliers to revamp their business models.
There are already early adopters of AVs, and Toyota predicts that in 2020, 42 percent of U.S. vehicles will be equipped with some type of “cooperative automated driving” technology tied to 5G or Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) – an open-source protocol for wireless communication intended for highly secure, high-speed wireless communication between vehicles and infrastructure. Forecasts expect that number to increase 68 percent by 2030 with sales of more than $30 million.
The total number of ADAS-enabled and autonomous cars on the road is expected to increase from 9 percent of the total Vehicles in Operation (VIO) in 2017 to 82 percent in 2030. The number of light-duty vehicles – i.e. passenger cars and light trucks – in the United States in 2018 was 276.1 million and Hedges & Co. has been projected it to be 281.3 million this year.
The increasing adoption of ADAS and AVs is attributable to a greater emphasis on both safety and green technology. Growing adoption of ADAS-enabled and autonomous cars may lead to more stable driving, resulting in less wear and tear.