Global autonomous vehicle sales to reach 33 million by 2040

Published: January 2, 2018

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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The move towards autonomous vehicles is underway. While full autonomy is not expected for at least a decade, the first vehicles with self-driving capabilities will be widely available this year. Sales will increase steadily year-on-year, according to business information provider IHS Markit and by 2040 33 million autonomous vehicles will be sold globally.

This will just be for that year, highlighting the role self-driving technology will play in future motoring. Indeed, the 33 million units for 2040 will dwarf the 51,000 units forecast for 2021, the first year where significant sales volumes are expected.

Growing demand for ride-sharing, ride-hailing, and other mobility services will spur growth in autonomous vehicles. Other studies have suggested self-driving vehicles will be sold by automakers and tech companies and will be most frequently used as ride-sharing solutions.

This puts a potential pinch on the auto insurance industry, which will struggle to stay relevant if carmakers and tech providers start creating their own insurance solutions.

IHS Markit predicts the United States will lead the autonomous vehicle push, especially through early deployment years. Mass adoption could start as soon as 2019. China and Europe will be selling significant volumes by 2021.

“The first autonomous vehicle volumes — beyond retrofit test vehicles — will arrive in 2019 through driverless mobility services,” said Egil Juliussen, Ph.D. and director of automotive technology research at IHS Markit. “Volumes will surpass 51,000 units in 2021 when personally owned autonomous cars reach individual buyers for the first time, and IHS Markit forecasts estimate nearly 1 million units will be sold in 2025 across shared fleets and individually owned cars.”

The research firm details how the three predicted leading autonomous car markets will grow over the next two decades:

  • United States first to deploy autonomous mobility

The U.S. market will see the first autonomous vehicle sales in the world, the IHS Markit forecast says, as many individual states and the nation as a whole are expected to adopt an industry-friendly regulatory approach. The first uses will be in mobility service fleets, which will provide early hands-on experience with the technology and help reduce consumer skepticism. Announcements from General Motors, Waymo and Uber contribute to early projected mobility fleet volumes in 2019 before personal autonomous vehicles become available as early as 2021. Total U.S. volumes of autonomous vehicles are expected to reach 7.4 million units per year in 2040.

  • China leads in total volume, driven by mobility services

Mobility services have taken hold in many Chinese cities already, and driverless variants are expected to maintain popularity with consumers. Additionally, the automotive and technology industries are aggressively closing the gap in key sectors including autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. Regulations on autonomous vehicle testing and deployment are expected soon in China, and will provide clarity for the industry to reach 14.5 million autonomous vehicle sales in 2040.

  • European markets remain strong in ownership of autonomous vehicles

European regulations are an obstacle to the same ride-hailing services that will drive initial deployment in the U.S., but European markets are especially strong in technology-rich luxury brands. As a result, according to the forecast, the balance in Europe will tip toward personally-owned autonomous cars over driverless mobility fleets, amounting to 5.5 million autonomous vehicle sales annually in 2040.