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Consumer Demand for Vehicle Technology Will Push Development of Self-Driving Cars, Study Finds

Increasing consumer demand for vehicle technology played a key role in doubling the adoption of models with automated driving features in 2016 and will help push the development of self-driving cars, according to a new report from market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

The report, titled "Global Autonomous Driving Market Outlook, 2017," notes that as consumer preference for automated features grows, vehicle manufacturers will increase their investment in technology. The result will be the refinement of artificial intelligence and cloud-based solutions, which will enable "Level 4/5 autonomous vehicles within the next five years."

Those levels of automation refer to the rating system for vehicle autonomy established by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Rankings range from no autonomy at Level 0 through full self-driving capability at Level 5. A vehicle rated at Level 4 would be able to drive itself most of the time, with a human driver intervening only under certain environmental or roadway conditions.

Another factor that will push the industry toward autonomous vehicles is consumer interest in shared mobility services, including self-driving taxis and other shared transportation options.

"With the introduction of automated driving taxis to support shared mobility business models, the commercial entry of Level 4 vehicles is expected by as early as 2020," said Anirudh Venkitaraman, Frost & Sullivan's mobility senior analyst, in a statement. "In the European and North American markets, the introduction of Level 3 automation by 2018, driven by over-the-air updates from Tesla, will strengthen the initial take rates for the technology."

At Level 3, a vehicle would be totally autonomous under specific conditions, such as driving on a multilane highway in clear, dry weather.

As previously reported by Edmunds, for several years, Tesla has been sending wireless software updates to the onboard systems of its Tesla Model S electric sedan. Many other manufacturers offer cloud-based updates to their navigation and entertainment systems, but the report notes that several are also piloting cloud-based updating for more critical functions, as Tesla does.

"Concerns surrounding legislation, system reliability issues and incompatible infrastructure limit the opportunities for OEMs looking at automated driving," concluded Venkitaraman. "Nevertheless, the journey from human-operated to completely autonomous cars is a progression, and pioneering semi-automated vehicles will be an important milestone toward achieving Level 5 automated vehicles."

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