Automated driving: Germany in the lead.

Automated driving: Germany in the lead.

May 21, 2016

  • Automated driving has been and will be a hot topic in Germany and worldwide, with several innovations to come in the next couple of months. The Automated Vehicle Index by Roland Berger and fka herby provides a comparative update on the competitive position of the individual national automotive industries.

In that positioning for the first quarter in 2016, the German car industry successfully defends its leading competitive position for automated driving.

Germany's ahead, but Japanese OEMs catching up

Especially the market launches of German OEMs with new vehicle models like the BMW7 series and the Audi A4 have been strengthening that position. Both are equipped with a number of automated driving and assistance functions such as the Emergency Star Assist system in the Audi A4. In contrast, a number of automotive nations are cutting Germany’s lead: Especially Japanese OEMs with a variety of automated driving functions in prototype vehicles are catching up.

German and US universities conduct extensive research

Regarding the state of development of prototype vehicles, Germany and the US are on a comparable level, although the activities of Google and Uber in the US are focused more strongly on inner-city applications.

One reason why the US and Germany still lead the field in terms of expertise is the fact that universities in both nations conduct extensive research. Additionally, cooperation between OEMs and scientists is visibly stepped up, with testing of automated functions as the focal topic.

The biggest unanswered question: the technical validation

Within those research activities, technical validation for automated vehicles is the biggest unanswered question and millions of test kilometers need to be driven.

An activity in Germany, which is worth mentioning, is the so called PEGASUS research project. It aims to find an effective process and methods to validate automated vehicles drawing on a database with relevant driving situations. They are entered under controlled conditions on the basis of accident data, field trials and intensive investigations.

With regard to the national legal framework, Germany lags a little way behind the US although the federal government has begun to stake out a framework called “Strategy for Automated and Connected Driving”. It aims to prepare Germany for both the legal and technological challenges that lie ahead.

" There’s no doubt, that automated driving will stay a key topic in our industry. "
Portrait of Wolfgang Bernhart

Wolfgang Bernhart

Senior Partner
Stuttgart Office, Central Europe

Driverless robot taxi vs. new cars

Infographic from the automated Vehicle Index The older they grow, the less vehicle owners in Germany and the US are interested in automatic driving – In China, interest remains virtually constant

Customer behavior surveys vary significantly when it comes to automated vehicles: On the one hand, Germans and Americans have significant positive interest (58%) but virtually every driver in China is interested (96%). On the other hand, Western customers become increasingly skeptical as they grow older.

With regard to automated driving, Roland Berger even went one step further and asked whether car owners would rather use a driverless robot taxi than buying a new car in 2030. Surprisingly 26 to 28% of Americans and Germans would rather use the first – in China even 51% would be interested. This high figure is influenced by steep licensing costs and the widespread use of chauffeur services.

For premium cars (priced at over EUR 80,000), it is interesting to see that virtually no Western owners would prefer to own automated vehicles. Fully 72% of vehicle owners in the same segment in China would rather do without a new car and use a robot taxi instead!

The figures mentioned above outline the different state of technological advancement as well as of social and acceptance. We are curious, how these trends are going to develop. Stay tuned for the forthcoming issues of this quarterly index – there’s no doubt, that automated driving will stay a key topic in our industry.

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Automated Vehicles Index Q1/2016


The Index compares the relative competitive positions of the key markets Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Sweden, the US, Japan, China and South Korea.

Published December 2015. Available in