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Quarterly Automated Vehicles Index: Germany still leading in the development of partially and highly automated vehicle functions

Munich/Aachen, January 5, 2016

  • Customer interest in automated driving is high – with driverless "robotaxis" at their disposal, more than one quarter of German and American drivers and more than half of their Chinese counterparts would no longer bother to buy a car
  • US and Germany continue to lead the index
  • Additional public subsidization programs in Germany are helping improve the country's knowledge position in research areas relevant for automated vehicles
  • In absolute figures, the US and China sell the most vehicles with (partially) automated functions but Germany and Sweden boast the highest market share

Automated driving remains a key topic for the future of the international automotive industry. The level of driver interest is high: some 60 percent of study participants interviewed by Roland Berger in Germany and the US express an interest in automated driving, with the figure in China as high as 96 percent. 26 percent of German car owners, 28 percent of Americans and 51 percent of Chinese could even see themselves using self-driving robot taxis in the future instead of buying their own new car.

The latest "Automated Vehicles Index" for the first quarter of 2016 issued by the automotive experts at Roland Berger and fka Forschungsgesellschaft Kraftfahrwesen mbH Aachen presents the current status of research and vehicle development alongside the market and legal framework and compares the relative competitive positions of the key markets (these being Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Sweden, the US, Japan, China and South Korea).

Germany and the US retain their lead

The study found that Germany remains a pioneer in the development and market launch of (partially) automated vehicle functions, followed by the US. "German OEMs have brought several new models to market in recent months, leading to greater availability of driver assistance systems in mass produced vehicles," said Wolfgang Bernhart, Partner at Roland Berger. Other nations like the US, South Korea and Japan have also improved their position. That said, assistance systems are only available in premium models in these countries, availability in other vehicle categories being limited. Germany and the US are both at a similar level on the development of prototype vehicles, with US companies like Google tending to focus on city center applications. Japanese OEMS have been able to improve their position by integrating new driving functions in their prototype vehicles.

Ranking behind Germany and the US is Sweden's automotive industry, where a broad range of driver assistance functions are available in mass produced vehicles. The UK remains in the middle of the field, while automakers from Italy, China and South Korea offer virtually no automated assistance systems at all and occupy the lower rankings, unchanged from the previous index.

Germany improves its knowledge position through subsidized programs

The extensive research and development activities undertaken by top American and German universities and research institutes in the fields of sensors, vehicle intelligence, connectivity, digital infrastructure and validation/testing combine to afford the US and Germany a leading position in the know-how stakes once more. "Both of these countries feature intensive scientific cooperation between OEMs and universities, which manifests itself in the form of concrete research projects," explained Christian Burkard, consultant at fka. And in Germany in particular, several publicly subsidized program were announced in recent months with the aim of taking various large-scale projects on automated driving to the next level. The introduction of new and wider-ranging testing and validation methods is also expected to make German providers even more competitive.

The US and China lead on market size

The market index, based on sales figures for vehicles with highly developed driver assistance systems, is where the US and China have a distinct lead over Germany judged on the absolute size of their markets. "However, measured against the total volume of all cars sold, Germany and Sweden continue to boast a very high proportion of cars with partially automated vehicle functions," explained Wolfgang Bernhart. These two countries rank second and third behind the US. The gap to the other countries remains considerable: the UK is in mid-table, but France, Italy, Japan and South Korea rank bottom, having proved unable to achieve any notable successes here.

Action still needed on the legal framework

When it comes to the legal situation in the individual countries, the US retains its lead in the market index, followed by Germany. This is due essentially to the simplified licensing procedures that exist in some US states. But the German government has in recent months taken important steps to begin staking out a clearer legal framework: The "Strategy for Automated and Connected Driving" defines specific measures for the five areas of infrastructure, law, innovation, IT security and data protection in order to actually get automated and connected driving onto our roads. "There is an urgent need for action, especially when it comes to the restrictive ECE regulations in place in Europe and other countries," explained fka expert Burkard. Automated steering functions at higher speeds, for example, are totally prohibited at present because it is unclear who would be responsible in such a scenario. As far as Roland Berger Partner Wolfgang Bernhart is concerned, one more aspect is also important: "The different legal frameworks across the world must not diverge from each other too much, otherwise German cars will not be attractive overseas."

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