Autonomous cars decades away from full deployment: Moody’s report

An array of companies has sparked plenty of hoopla regarding projects to develop and launch self-driving vehicles, but widespread adoption isn’t likely to happen until well after the halfway mark of this century, Moody’s Investors Service says.

“Adoption of self-driving cars will take decades,” according to a new report from Moody’s.

Numerous factors have influenced Moody’s to predict a relatively long time horizon.

Chief among them: It could take automakers longer to perfect self-driving technology, especially considering how cutting-edge the technology is.

“Self-driving functions will initially be available for highway driving, severe traffic, and urban areas where environmental data can be accumulated quickly,” Moody’s stated. Automakers may require years to navigate the technology through the entire range of vehicle operations, including extreme weather.

Plus, regulators could restrict, delay, or even ban self-driving cars if they are deemed to be unsafe.

“Consumers may be slow to adapt to self-driving cars, particularly if early self-driving vehicles get into accidents that human drivers would avoid,” Moody’s said in the report.

Despite the long time horizon for widespread deployment of self-driving vehicles, this new technology is increasingly becoming part of the American motorist landscape.

“Several automakers, including Ford, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla, have announced plans to introduce fully autonomous vehicles by about 2020,” Moody’s stated in its report. “Some other automakers expect to release them by 2025.”

In addition, tech firms such as Google and Apple are seen as players in this fledgling sector.

“Imagine if everyone could get around easily and safely, regardless of their ability to drive,” Google says on a website dedicated to its self-driving car project. “Aging or visually impaired loved ones wouldn’t have to give up their independence. Time spent commuting could be time spent doing what you want to do.”

Cupertino-based Apple is tight-lipped about its vehicle ambitions, but some observers believe that Apple’s purchase of land and buildings for an 86-acre campus in north San Jose could be the principal hub of the tech giant’s car ventures.

“Autonomous driving will initially be an expensive option on luxury vehicles,” Moody’s predicted in its report. “It could take until about 2030 to become a common option in conventional vehicles.”

Another five years, which takes the time horizon to 2035, would be needed before the technology is standard on all vehicles sold in the United States, Moody’s said.

“It could take an additional 10 years, to 2045, before a majority of vehicles are autonomous and 10 years after that, 2055, for self-driving vehicles to become nearly universal,” Moody’s stated in its report.

 

Photo: An early Google self-driving vehicle. (Getty Images)

 

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