Around 1.4 million people lose their lives each year due to road accidents, and almost 50 million more people suffer from serious injuries that result in disability, as reported by the World Health Organization. Not only do these injuries cause losses to individuals, they also affect families and nations as a whole. Loss of productivity occurs due to disability of the injured as well as engagement of family members, who take out time to care for the injured. It has been reported that road accidents cost most countries 3% of their gross domestic product.
Taking Germany as a specific example, in 2018, more than 3,200 people were killed due to road crashes, which was approximately 2.7% higher than last year, as per the Federal Statistical Office. Majority of these accidents are attributed to human errors, such as the failure to pay attention on the road while driving, keeping unsafe distance from the vehicle in front, and inappropriate speed. To tackle these, the need for autonomous vehicles is being felt in the country, where systems such as anti-lock braking system, automatic emergency braking, advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS), and adaptive cruise control help drivers journey safely.
A study conducted by P&S Intelligence has predicted the German autonomous vehicles market for fully autonomous variants to grow to $28.0 billion in the near future, witnessing a 20.2% CAGR. An autonomous vehicle is able to drive itself from one point to another without any human interference, in an auto-pilot mode. This is done using different technologies, such as adaptive cruise control, global positioning system, and radar and lasers, for precise maneuvering on the roads. Autonomous vehicles are primarily of two types — fully and semi-autonomous. In 2018, only the semi-autonomous vehicles were bought, as even though fully autonomous vehicles are in demand, they are still in the development and testing phases and are expected to be available for public use in the coming years, when they would witness the faster growth in demand.
Autonomous vehicles can be deployed on German roads to offer mobility-as-a-service (MaaS). These vehicles, owing to their low operational costs, can be used as passenger taxis that would offer people a cheaper way to travel than conventional taxis. This would not only offer a safer riding experience, but also help curb the traffic on the roads, as these vehicles are expected to be priced at a premium level, which would make them accessible to a limited number of customers only. Further, MaaS is expected to establish a niche for autonomous vehicles as robotaxis, which is being researched on by many vehicle manufacturers. In 2017, a demo robotaxi, Continental Urban mobility Experience (CUbE), was manufactured and tested by Continental AG in Frankfurt.
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Autonomous vehicles are of the following types, considering what they use as fuel — battery electric vehicle (BEV), internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, and hybrid electric vehicle (HEV). Of these, the ICE type were in the highest demand in the past. These vehicles use combustion engines to generate propulsion power and run on fossil fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, and compressed natural gas. However, in the coming time, BEVs are expected to witness the fastest growth in demand due to the growing environmental concerns, stringent vehicular emission norms, and government support to popularize electric vehicles. Further, the growing research and development activities in this domain would continue to add to the demand for battery electric autonomous vehicles in the coming future.