UK keeps pace with autonomous vehicle development of key competitors

14 February 2018 Consultancy.uk

Fully autonomous vehicles are still some way off, despite the growing hype around the futuristic technology. A new report has revealed that while Germany is out ahead in terms of development, the UK and US are not far behind. Sales of the current crop of semi-autonomous offerings are strongest in China.

Global vehicle sales are set to peak in the next decade, as wide ranging mega-trends, from electrification to on-demand mobility, change the way in which vehicles operate and are consumed. The effects will be felt by a wide range of players in the current automotive ecosystem, as demand shifts towards suppliers of components for electrification and automation, while whole new sharing related industries are set to arise.

Technology has the potential to see significant changes to the driving experience, as automation improves to, ultimately, displace human drivers altogether. However, the technological development in the space is far from complete, with a number of risks, from abject failure to regulatory interventions to inhibit various risks – potentially offsetting development, or even the technology as a whole.

To better understand the risks, Roland Berger and Forschungsgesellschaft Kraftfahrwesen mbH Aachen (FKA), has released its ‘Automated Vehicles Index’ report. The report is based on the final data of 2017 and covers nine of the most active markets.

Comparison of competitive position

According to the study, Germany and the US are the most advanced in the field of automated driving. Germany and the US score similarly in terms of the state of development, and similarly in terms of share of research areas – with Finland not far behind. The US is, however, far in advance of Germany in terms of sales figures, while Germany is far in advance in terms of availability of functions relative to the US.

The UK performs relatively well in terms of AV market share, but has poor availability of function and sales figures – while sporting middle performances in state of development, share of research areas and level of expertise.

The study shows that the share of research areas covered in the highest in Germany, although the US and UK aren’t far behind. In the UK, for instance, considerable funds are being thrown at developing the technology, including a £200 million government fund. While the EU is also keen to support development, through a €68 fund to develop level 3 technology. Funding for various test sites is being opened up too, including €100 million for testing on German highways.

Research areas and share of expertise

Apart from investment in research, expertise remains a key driver for development. The US remains out ahead, followed relatively closely by Germany. UK expertise and Finnish expertise are not too far behind the leaders, however. Chinese and Italian expertise lag somewhat behind, with the respective research areas covered also falling behind.

Current sales

While development continues apace, the firm notes that scale of implementation is largely confined to the US and China. Both countries saw considerable boosts to their sales figures on the back of level-2 AV integration in common models, allowing for mass deployment. The relative size of the markets, however, distort sales figures.

Sales figures and market share

In terms of market share, even with lower absolute sales numbers, Finland places out ahead, followed by Germany and the US. Italy and South Korea, meanwhile, score just above China, although they remain far behind in terms of sales figures.

Commenting on the development, Wolfgang Bernhart, partner at Roland Berger, said, "This past year we have seen a renewed and significant increase in activity in the field of automated driving. Automotive OEMs, suppliers and technology companies are now racing to bring to market the first highly automated vehicles for use on urban roads."

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