Drivers will not be able to experience roads full of completely autonomous vehicles for at least another 20 years, according to a report from research company GlobalData. 

GlobalData’s Thematic Research: Autonomous Vehicles (2023) report states that the path to Level 4 autonomous vehicles and above “is likely to be slow”.

Level 5 autonomy relates to self-driving cars that do not require any human interaction – meaning that when they’re eventually deployed, they won’t have steering wheels or pedals. 

“It is reasonable to assume, however, that a Level 4 vehicle newly launched in 2035 will be substantially superior to one launched in 2025, so the path towards Level 5 is likely to be gradual,” the report states.

The difficulty of commercialising autonomous vehicles has been one of the biggest hurdles for the industry’s progression.

“The early hype in expectations, a period that went from approximately 2015 to 2020, has given way to far more realistic positioning as the wide range of challenges to full commercial deployment becomes clearer,” it added. 

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By GlobalData

Autonomous systems are extremely costly to create and incorporate into vehicles.

“The reality is that, when autonomous systems become available on a commercial level, they are likely to be costly,” according the report.

Autonomous vehicles include a range of sensors, computer processors and other components – making it difficult to incorporate into price-sensitive passenger cars.

The jump from Level 2 to Level 3 autonomous vehicles, which relates to “eyes-off” operation, is also a large switch in public perception and trust. 

The jump to Level 4 from Level 3 will be higher still.

“Even Level 3 vehicles will appear simple in comparison with the higher levels and capabilities demanded by truly self-driving Level 4 and Level 5 models, both of which might not include controls for human drivers,” the report states.

According to GlobalData there is “an almost 20-year horizon for true Level 5 vehicles to begin to be offered.”