Given the recent lane recognition flaw uncovered by Tencent Keen Security Lab in Tesla’s autopilot feature, it may come as no surprise that we are still a little way away from full level 5 autonomous vehicles. In their research, the lab proved that by placing interference stickers on the road, the Tesla autopilot system would capture that information and make an abnormal judgement, which causes the vehicle to enter into the reverse lane.

It’s timely then that a report released this week in the UK said that based on current technology roadmaps and real-world applications, full and unconditional automation for level 5 autonomous vehicles is unlikely to be introduced before 2035. One of the primary reasons its states for this is the technology challenge involved in equipping AVs to tackle ‘all possible unusual driving situations under all driving situations under all driving conditions and in all environments’.

Published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and Frost and Sullivan, the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Winning the Global Race to Market report analyzes the wide-ranging societal and economic benefits to be achieved by gradually increasing connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) on our roads.

The road to Level 5 automated driving is likely to be reached gradually as more advanced driver assistance features come to market. This strategy, while incremental in its approach, is expected to have an impact on the safety, convenience and cost aspects associated with current modes of transport. As this happens, disruption is likely to occur across traditional, ownership focused vehicles as well as shared mobility services such as taxis and shuttles. For example, the report estimates there will be a 15% reduction in all collisions across major markets, including in Europe and North America, within a span of 10 years of Automated Emergency Braking (AEB) being mandated in Europe (expected between 2021 and 2025).

By 2022, automated shuttle services are likely to be launched in some British cities. The shuttles will be capable of operating autonomously at low to moderate speeds of up to 40mph and are anticipated to improve the safety and convenience of getting around in cities.

CAV Technology RoadMap Infographic: Connected and autonomous vehicle technology roadmap: estimated cost of technology development and fitment per vehicle required to achieve each of the five levels of automation (Source: SMMT/Frost and Sullivan)

Between 2018 and 2030 alone, based on global OEM rollout for the various levels of automation, an estimated £176.5 billion (US $230 billion) is likely to be invested by OEMs worldwide in the global deployment of Level 3 and Level 4 automated features. This level of investment will drive the need for new business models and revenue streams to generate returns, says the report.

The Four Recommendations for UK

The report, which is focused on the economic uplift to the UK from CAVs, says the annual UK economic opportunity by 2030 is £62 billion (US $81 billion), but only if the country doesn’t damage its progress in investment and safety as a result of ‘Brexit’ – it’s planned departure from the European Union. Assuming the country does eventually make a favorable deal with Europe, the report has four key recommendations on what needs to happen in the UK: 1) amend current road traffic laws, 2) improve road coverage of 4G across road networks, 3) enable safe deployment of consumer oriented urban mobility services, and 4) expedite international harmonization of regulations.

The UK is behind Germany on road traffic laws and needs to pave the way for safe deployment of AVs by amending its laws to enable the deployment of level 3 AVs. The report’s estimate of 12% penetration of Level 3 by 2025 is based on the assumption that changes to international regulation are forthcoming by 2021 and amendments to current UK road traffic laws could be implemented by 2022.

In terms of 4G coverage, the UK’s main roads only have 54% 4G penetration, which makes it difficult to deploy connected vehicles and V2X applications that complement AVs on the UK’s urban and rural road networks. This is in contrast to the US and South Korea, where the planned rollouts of 5G could make them more ready for the potential opportunity from CAVs.

Urban environments are where AV deployment can have the highest positive impact. The report recommends that government should assist by encouraging local authorities to work in collaboration with industry to implement consumer oriented urban mobility services, with safety as the central tenet of such initiatives.