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There is a very clear accelerating growth trend in the number of announcements and articles on the subject of autonomous vehicles (AVs) online. When I started researching this subject in earnest around September 2011 there was probably one article on the BBC News site every two or three months. This week it is possible that for a short while that there were three different articles that talked about AVs on the site at the same time.
This month we had two studies released which caught my attention. The IHS study which I personally didn't think a great deal of, as it was only made available to the press for free (so my comments are limited to the press release), and forecast some market penetration rates for AVs which I found to be very conservative as it seemed that they had been calculated from an automotive industry perspective. When an industry faces potential disruption then it may not be wise to base your calculations on the historical growth in that sector.
The Rand study appeared to be significantly better researched and provided some great background work. I didn't agree with their treatment of shared vehicle fleets as I think that there are compelling business reasons why they are both inevitable and likely to grow at a rapid rate.
So despite my impression that the Rand report was significantly better, it was the IHS report that got most media exposure. Now it could be that IHS have a much better media distribution system, or it could be that the media found it easier to latch onto an easy headline, e.g. '9% of Cars to be Driverless by 2035'.
My disdain for the headline writers continued with the CES in Las Vegas. Induct launched the Navia as the world's first commercially available driverless low-speed electric shuttle at CES,which was the real headline for me. I was also very impressed that Audi demonstrated on public roads their miniaturized shoe-box sized self-driving technology in a gorgeous looking A7.
But what got the real headlines at CES? Why, a drifting self-driving BMW of course...
To further 'add insult to my injury' in this matter, the BMW CEO for North America seemed to think that BMW still want to keep the driver involved with the 'ultimate driving machine'.