Who will ride self-driving cars?

August 14, 2016 2:28 pm

Video captured by a Google self-driving car, inset, is coupled with the same street scene as the data is visualized by the car during a presentation at a media preview of Google’s prototype autonomous vehicles in Moutain View, California. (Image: Reuters)

Would you trust a self-driving car to ferry you around the city? A surprising number of people said they would.

A new study reveals that 70 per cent of consumers in the UAE are open to riding a self-driving car, whereas, globally, 79 per cent said they would ride in a partially self-driving car.

The introduction of self-driving cars is in line with the UAE’s long-term vision. Earlier in April, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, announced he wanted 25 per cent of all car trips in Dubai to be driverless by 2030.

The study, titled Self-Driving Vehicles, Robo-Taxis and the Urban Mobility Revolution, was published by global management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG), in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. It found that most people around the world are well-aware and knowledgeable about self-driving cars and their benefits.

Consumers in the UAE are even willing to pay more for it. A total of 47 per cent of the UAE respondents stated they would pay more for a self-driving car, out of which 72 per cent said they would pay at least $5,000 more for such a vehicle.

Consumer willingness to pay extra is driven by an economic logic, which balances the cost against potential savings in other areas, such as lower parking fees and fuel-saving, the report found.

Slightly less than half of UAE respondents (44 per cent) find that traditional car manufacturers should be the ones to produce self-driving vehicles (SDVs).

Benefits: Global adoption

According to an analysis presented by BCG, the adoption of self-driving vehicles, especially shared self-driving taxis, can drop the number of cars on city streets by 60 per cent, reduce tailpipe emissions by at least 80 per cent in and decrease road accidents by 90 per cent.

An earlier research conducted by BCG and the World Economic Forum found that, while the broad consumer adoption of SDVs comes with few barriers, the most significant disruption will be seen with widespread adoption of robo-taxis – self-driving cabs.

BCG claims this research was the largest global survey on SDVs to date and included more than 5,500 consumers in ten cities around the world. The survey found that 58 per cent of the global consumers are willing to try out SDVs, with the highest willingness levels being among younger consumers. Meanwhile, acceptance of SDVs recorded the highest levels in emerging markets.

“Ride-shared, electric robo-taxis can substantially transform and improve urban transportation and, by direct extension, liveability, by providing more people with easier access to mobility, making streets safer, and freeing up space no longer needed for parking. The major players – industry, consumers, and policymakers –are excited and engaged,” Nikolaus Lang, a senior partner at BCG and a co-author of the report, said.

Possible outcomes

BCG and World Economic Forum developed four possible scenarios for the city of the future, all of which are based on autonomous technology, ride-sharing and electrification, and listed them in order of potential impact.


‘Premium Car Thrives Itself’

In this likely scenario, self-driving cars would complement existing mobility landscape in high-end offering, resulting in a small reduction of one per cent in the number of vehicles on the streets, through limited sharing of SDVs, and a drop of 20 per cent in the number of accidents on the road, as SDVs eliminate human error and hence are much safer.


‘SDVs Rule the Streets’

In this scenario SDVs would replace most traditional cars but would continue to primarily be privately owned. Only one in ten SDVs will be shared by a number of individuals; the total number of cars on the street drops by eight per cent. The number of accidents also drops by 55 per cent and there is a five per cent increase in free parking space.


‘Robo-Taxis Take Over’

These become the primary transportation option in the city. A big change is noticed with 50 per cent decrease in number of cars on the road, as consumers abandon privately owned vehicles and take up robo-taxis. This also results in 90 per cent fewer accidents and nearly 40 per cent of parking space is freed up in a given city.


‘The Ridesharing Revolution’

Here, shared robo-taxis would still be a primary mode of mobility with every taxi carrying an average of two individuals. This results in 54 per cent more free parking space and also lowers the number of cars needed to transport the population by 59 per cent. Accidents also decrease by 87 per cent.


However, after laying out all these scenarios, BCG makes it clear that “no single scenario will play out exactly as described,” Michael Rüßmann, a BCG senior partner and report co-author says.


“Our analysis makes it clear that the potential benefits for society are huge if SDVs are combined with ride-sharing and electrification… A power train shift from internal-combustion to electric engines is essential if cities want to cut tailpipe emissions and ride-sharing in urban areas is required to reduce the number of vehicles that are on the streets at any given time. Autonomous capabilities are the key to big improvements in road safety. These three factors – ride-sharing, autonomous driving and electrification – reinforce each other to facilitate fast adoption,” he adds.


AMEinfo Staff
By AMEinfo Staff
AMEinfo staff members report business news and views from across the Middle East and North Africa region, and analyse global events impacting the region today.