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According to TrendForce analyst Yvette Lin, fully autonomous vehicle (Level 5) is the ultimate goal of autonomous driving technology. For ridesharing operators, fully autonomous vehicles significantly increase both car utilization rates and transport efficiency, as they can operate 24/7 theoretically.
However, there is still a long way to go before regulations for fully autonomous vehicles are widely adopted, so both traditional automakers and other technology companies all seeexpect putting level 4 self-driving vehicles into commercial operation in 2020 as the year that high automation vehicles (Level 4) will officially become commercialized. In addition to enhancing safety, Level 4 vehicles also aim at improving efficiency and convenience of transport, which are at the core of ridesharing. Therefore, self-driving taxis have become the direction of development for ridesharing operators.
All of the major ridesharing operators have laid out some market deployment strategies in the autonomous driving market since 2016. For instance, Uber announced its cooperation with Volvo, Ford and Daimler Group in 2016, and is expected to commercialize self-driving taxis by 2021. Lyft has partnered with General Motors and Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, while setting up a research center to develop autonomous driving technology. Earlier this year, Lyft demonstrated self-driving services in CES 2018, and is also set to launch self-driving taxi service in 2021.
As for Asian companies, Didi Chuxing has opened a self-driving lab in California in 2017; Grab Taxi, the largest ridesharing operator in Southeast Asia, has partnered with autonomous driving technology provider nuTonomy to carry out road tests of fully autonomous vehicles in Singapore, with the goal to put them into commercial operation by 2021.
Compared with Level 3 vehicles, which take the lead in freeway transport such as trucks and buses, Level 4 focuses on self-driving in urban areas, where ridesharing could serve as the last-mile solution to fulfill transport needs in the city. Furthermore, global traffic problems have become worse, and people in some countries are even less willing to own automobiles due to difficulties in finding parking and getting license, which is expected to further help expand the ridesharing market.
Lin also notes that, while regulatory challenges remain in realizing full autonomous driving, service operators will be able to benefit from first-mover advantage in the personalized transport service market in future’s highly automated transport network, if they deploy high automation vehicles early.
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