Self-driving car: another victim of corona?
With the Covid-19 health crisis and the economic crisis that will follow, experts not only foresee a 20% fall for the automotive sector in 2020, they also anticipate a reduction in fully autonomous driving technology development. According to them, priorities are revised and investments are directed to the electric car.
“There is an obvious process of investment selection where the return on investment will be a much more important criterion than before. In other words, the technologies that will be favored will be those that will have a commercial reality in the short or medium-term,” explains Guillaume Crunelle, Automotive Industry specialist at Deloitte.
With the crisis, the automotive sector’s actors are taking a step back on their previous ambitions. The dream of the level 4 or 5 autonomous car, one that drives itself while occupants are reading a newspaper or watching a movie, seems to be dead. With investments being redirected, manufacturers want to re-center on level 3 assistance or ADAS.
“The crisis won’t reduce the competition in the autonomous car industry, but it will reduce the number of competitors. It’s not necessary to have fifty projects anymore. The time has come for standardization,” adds Mr. Crunelle.
Manufacturers could increase their cooperation. Ford and Volkswagen have already strengthened their partnership on autonomous vehicles while the Renault-Nissan Alliance has decided to rationalize its R&D on the matter.
Anne-Marie Idrac, a deputy in charge of the autonomous car for the French government, believes there is still a place for self-driving technology.
“There is a rethink on the autonomous car, but it was already underway before the coronavirus crisis. It’s true that there is a revision of priorities, in particular in favor of electrification, which gained more weight with the Green Deal,” explains the deputy.
According to Mrs. Idrac, this technology still raises the interest of airports, collective transport operators, or delivery companies. However, these are much smaller projects than that of releasing self-driving vehicles in the urban jungle.