The timelines for deployment of fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) to be pushed back over the next few years. Companies that have made big bets on the technology will continue to push towards commercialisation, but it could be closer to 2035 before we begin to see any meaningful deployments of fully self-driving vehicles.


Listed below are the key milestones that tell the story of AVs, as identified by GlobalData.

1939 – GM’s Futurama exhibit at the World’s Fair envisages cars that drive themselves.

1953 – GM and RCA develop a model automated highway to experiment with electronics to control steerage and distance between vehicles.

1958 – GM tests a rudimentary self-steering Chevrolet.

1960s – Stanford University roboticists develop the autonomous Stanford Cart based on the Lunar Rover platform.

1977 – Dr Sadayuki Tsugawa unveils first fully AV equipped with cameras and analogue signal processing computers at the Mechanical Engineering Lab at Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

1979 – Stanford’s Hans Moravec’s Stanford Cart crosses a chair-filled room without incident or human intervention.

1987 – Aerospace engineer Ernst Dickmanns’ VaMoRs vehicle outfitted with two cameras, 18 16-bit microprocessors, and a host of sensors self-drove for 20km at an average speed of 56mph.

1994 – Dickmanns piloted a retrofitted Mercedes S-Class from Munich to Odense, covering roughly 95% of the distance autonomously.

1995 – A team of CMU roboticists drove a 1990 Pontiac from Pittsburgh to LA with a 70-mile stretch completed without human help.

2005 – Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) stages a Grand Challenge for robot vehicles to complete a 132-mile course full of bends and mountain passes. Stanford University wins with its Stanley VW, completing the course in 6 hours and 54 minutes.

2009 – Google starts testing robot cars on roads.

2015 – Tesla unveils Autopilot.

2015 – Baidu drives a retrofitted BMW 3 Series autonomously in Beijing.

2015 – Delphi AV drives from coast to coast.

2016 – Uber test autonomous taxis with human co-pilot in Pittsburgh.

2017 – NuTonomy self-drive taxis tested in Singapore.

2017 – Gallup poll in the US shows majority public concern about AVs.

2018 – March: Uber AV with human safety driver on board kills a pedestrian in Arizona.

2018 – Autonomous lorries start to test on highways in the US and UK.

2018 – Nissan-DNA launch self-drive experiment in Yokohama.

2018 – Waymo runs a limited commercial robotaxi service in Chandler, Arizona.

2019 – Tesla touted full autonomy would be available in its vehicles, it still has not achieved this target.

2020 – GM launches Origin robotaxi with Lyft.

2020 – Volvo and Uber announce plan for robotaxi service with Geely and Nvidia.

2025 – Daimler aims to begin production of level 4 AVs with Bosch, Uber and Nvidia.

2025 – Level 4 AVs are permitted to operate autonomously in prescribed areas in good conditions.

2025 – Level 4 robotaxi ride hailing begins to be offered across the world’s urban areas, led by Didi Chuxing, Uber, Lyft, legacy original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and tech giants Apple, Amazon and Baidu.

2040 – 50% chance that Omega point of electric vehicles (EVs), AVs and shared vehicles will be reached.

2040 – More than 50% chance that level 5 vehicles will be available in the mass market.

This is an edited extract from the Autonomous Vehicles, 2020 Update – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.

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