It is no longer a question of if but when autonomous vehicles (AVs) will hit the road. In the auto industry's most significant inflection in 100 years, vehicles with varying levels of self-driving capability - ranging from single-lane highway driving to autonomous valet parking to traffic jam autopilot - will start to become available to consumers as soon as mid-2015 or early 2016. Development of autonomous-driving technology is gaining momentum across a broad front that encompasses OEMs, suppliers, technology providers, academic institutions, municipal governments, and regulatory bodies.
Global automobile production will increase by 21 million units by 2021, and has grown by 25 million units since 2009 as the industry continues to recover from the impact of the global economic recession, according to a forecast by IHS Automotive, part of IHS Inc. China will dominate, but there is a considerable upside attached to the North American industry as it attracts foreign investment, and in the European industry as its domestic markets climb back. Japanese and South Korean production will decline as local OEMs focus their efforts overseas.
China's mostly state-owned automakers want to persuade the country's Commerce Ministry to retain a requirement seldom found in other top manufacturing nations: Foreign automakers may assemble cars in China only through 50-50 joint ventures with domestic partners.