For the past decade, manufacturers and governments all over the world have been preparing for the adoption of self-driving cars—with the promise of transformative economic development.
As autonomous vehicles become more of a looming certainty, what will be the wider impacts of this monumental transition?
Which Countries are Ready?
Today’s interactive visual from Aquinov Mathappan ranks countries on their preparedness to adopt self-driving cars, while also exploring the range of challenges they will face in achieving complete automation.
The Five Levels of Automation
The graphic above uses the Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index, which details the five levels of automation. Level 0 vehicles place the responsibility for all menial tasks with the driver, including steering, braking, and acceleration. In contrast, level 5 vehicles demand nothing of the driver and can operate entirely without their presence.
Today, most cars sit between levels 1 and 3, typically with few or limited automated functions. There are some exceptions to the rule, such as certain Tesla models and Google’s Waymo. Both feature a full range of self-driving capabilities—enabling the car to steer, accelerate and brake on behalf of the driver.
The Journey to Personal Driving Freedom
There are three main challenges that come with achieving a fully-automated level 5 status:
- Data Storage
Effectively storing data and translating it into actionable insights is difficult when 4TB of raw data is generated every day—the equivalent of the data generated by 3,000 internet users in 24 hours.
- Data Transportation
Autonomous vehicles need to communicate with each other and transport data with the use of consistently high-speed internet, highlighting the need for large-scale adoption of 5G.
- Verifying Deep Neural Networks
The safety of these vehicles will be dictated by their ability to distinguish between a vehicle and a person, but they currently rely on algorithms which are not yet fully understood.
Which Countries are Leading the Charge?
The 20 countries were selected for the report based on economic size, and their automation progress was ranked using four key metrics: technology and innovation, infrastructure, policy and legislation, and consumer acceptance.
The United States leads the way on technology and innovation, with 163 company headquarters, and more than 50% of cities currently preparing their streets for self-driving vehicles. The Netherlands and Singapore rank in the top three for infrastructure, legislation, and consumer acceptance. Singapore is currently testing a fleet of autonomous buses created by Volvo, which will join the existing public transit fleet in 2022.
India, Mexico, and Russia lag behind on all fronts—despite enthusiasm for self-driving cars, these countries require legislative changes and improvements in the existing quality of roads. Mexico also lacks industrial activity and clear regulations around autonomous vehicles, but close proximity to the U.S. has already garnered interest from companies like Intel for manufacturing autonomous vehicles south of the border.
How Autonomous Vehicles Impact the Economy
Once successfully adopted, autonomous vehicles will save the U.S. economy $1.3 trillion per year, which will come from a variety of sources including:
- $563 billion: Reduction in accidents
- $422 billion: Productivity gains
- $158 billion: Decline in fuel costs
- $138 billion: Fuel savings from congestion avoidance
- $11 billion: Improved traffic flow and reduction of energy use
Transportation will be safer, potentially reducing the number of accidents over time. Insurance companies are already rolling out usage-based insurance policies (UBIs), which charge customers based on how many miles they drive and how safe their driving habits are.
Long distance traveling in autonomous vehicles provides a painless alternative to train and air travel. The vehicles are designed for comfort, making it possible to sleep overnight easily—which could also impact the hotel industry significantly.
- Real Estate
An increase in effortless travel could lead to increased urban sprawl, as people prioritize the convenience of proximity to city centers less and less.
With the adoption of autonomous vehicles projected to reduce private car ownership in the U.S. to 43% by 2030, it’s disrupting many other industries in the process.
Defining the parameters for this emerging industry will present significant and unpredictable challenges. Once the initial barriers are eliminated and the technology matures, the world could see a new renaissance of mobility, and the disruption of dozens of other industries as a result.
Timeline: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the Hummer
GM has received over 65,000 preorders for its upcoming Hummer EV. See how this compares to the brand’s previous sales in one infographic.
Timeline: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the Hummer
The Hummer brand has a relatively short history, but its trucks are some of America’s biggest automotive icons (both figuratively and literally). Originally designed for the military, Hummers are famous for their size, off-road capability, and of course, fuel consumption.
The latter proved to be the Hummer’s Achilles’ heel. By 2007, a recession was coming, and the appetite for oversized gas guzzlers had shrunk. The Hummer brand was discontinued, and its last truck rolled off the production line in 2010.
Over a decade later, GM is reviving the Hummer as a fully-electric off-road vehicle. Preorders have surpassed 65,000 units, but how does this compare to the brand’s heyday in the 2000s?
The Hummer traces its roots to 1983, when AM General, a heavy vehicle manufacturer, received $1 billion from the Pentagon to build the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee).
The Humvee became a staple of the U.S. military, and by 1991, 72,000 had been produced. The truck was especially useful in Middle Eastern conflict zones due to its ability to transport troops and cargo over rough terrain.
If you’re wondering how this military vehicle ended up on public roads, you can thank none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
While filming the 1990 action-comedy, Kindergarten Cop, Arnold reportedly fell in love with a Humvee used on set. He later persuaded AM General to produce a consumer version of the truck, which arrived in 1992 under the name “Hummer”.
Apart from adding creature comforts like air conditioning, AM General made very few changes to the consumer-spec Hummer. It was notoriously crude and unsuited for city driving, but its military roots gave it plenty of character. GM saw an opportunity in expanding the brand, so in 1999, it purchased the rights to produce and market the Hummer.
Rise and Fall
GM moved rather quickly after purchasing Hummer. It renamed the truck to “H1”, and released an “H2” just a few years later.
Sales in the U.S. jumped, hitting over 35,000 in 2003 before tapering off slightly. To keep momentum going, GM rolled out the smaller and cheaper “H3” in 2005. Sales once again spiked, and the brand recorded over 71,000 sales in 2006.
Unfortunately, what goes up eventually comes down. In 2009, during GM’s bankruptcy proceedings, the Hummer brand was discontinued along with Pontiac and Saturn.
|Year||Annual U.S. Hummer Sales|
So what went wrong? For starters, the H2 was a victim of the times. It was large, expensive, and extremely thirsty for gas—attributes that don’t fare well during an economic recession.
In fact, the H2 never received an official fuel economy rating from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because it was too heavy. Regulations at the time excluded vehicles over 8,500 lbs from testing, though journalists observed an average of less than 10 mpg.
The H3 mitigated some of these issues by downsizing, and it quickly become the brand’s best selling vehicle. This success was short-lived, as the H3 alone could not sustain the brand.
Jolted to Life
In 2020, GM announced the all-electric Hummer EV. It bears a strong resemblance to the H2, carrying over iconic design elements such as the front grill with vertical slats.
Compared to the H2, this electric model is longer, wider, and heavier. Estimates suggest that it will weigh over 9,000 lbs, which according to EPA estimates, is more than double the weight of the average car. This is primarily attributed to the truck’s vast quantity of battery packs.
Power is also increased thanks to the electric drivetrain, with the “Edition 1” model boasting 1,000 horsepower from its three electric motors (a similar configuration to Tesla’s Plaid platform). Lesser models, which only have two motors, are expected to generate north of 600 horsepower.
A Promising Restart
Will battery power be the key to the Hummer’s long-term success?
So far, GM appears to have played its cards right. New trucks are outselling new cars by a ratio of 3-to-1 in the U.S., and the release of the Hummer EV is well-timed to capitalize on this trend.
The Hummer EV also sheds one of its predecessors’ biggest weaknesses—fuel consumption. With gas prices at all-time highs, can we dare to call the new Hummer “economical”?
Either way, GM is certainly enjoying the economic benefits of its decision. Over 65,000 pre-orders have been received, and production of the Hummer EV is completely sold out until 2024. The truck is being built at Factory Zero in Michigan, which is GM’s first EV-dedicated production facility.
Visualizing All Electric Car Models Available in the U.S.
When it comes to purchasing electric cars, Americans have a few to choose from. Here’s a look at every electric vehicle sold in the U.S.
Visualizing All Electric Car Models Available in the U.S.
America’s electric vehicle (EV) market has surged over the last decade, and it’s only expected to grow further. The Biden administration has allocated billions towards the EV transition in the hopes that by 2030, electric cars make up 50% of all new cars sales in America.
Given the rising demand, what types of electric car models are available for U.S. consumers to choose from today?
What Electric Vehicles Are Available in America?
As of February 2022, there are 28 different electric vehicles available in the U.S., from 18 different manufacturers. Here are their base model statistics:
|Price (MSRP)||Max. Horsepower||Combined Fuel Economy||Combined Max. Range|
|GMC Hummer EV Pickup||$110,295||1,000||N/A||N/A|
|Audi e-tron GT||$102,400||469||82 MPGe||238 miles|
|Mercedes EQS||$102,310||329||97 MPGe||350 miles|
|Tesla Model X||$98,940||670||102 MPGe||348 miles|
|Tesla Model S||$94,990||670||120 MPGe||405 miles|
|Porsche Taycan||$82,700||321||79 MPGe||200 miles|
|Lucid Air Pure||$77,400||480||N/A||406 miles|
|Rivian R1S||$72,500||600+||N/A||260+ miles|
|Jaguar I-Pace*||$69,900||394||76 MPGe||234 miles|
|Rivian R1T||$67,500||600+||70 MPGe||260+ miles|
|Audi e-tron||$65,900||402||78 MPGe||222 miles|
|Volvo C40 Recharge||$58,750||402||87 MPGe||226 miles|
|Volvo XC40 Recharge||$55,300||402||85 MPGe||223 miles|
|Tesla Model Y Long Range||$53,940||480||122 MPGe||330 miles|
|Polestar 2||$45,900||231||107 MPGe||270 miles|
|Tesla Model 3||$44,990||283||132 MPGe||272 miles|
|Audi Q4 e-tron||$43,900||295||95 MPGe||241 miles|
|Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD||$43,895||266||103 MPGe||247 miles|
|Hyundai Ioniq 5||$43,650||168||110 MPGe||220 miles|
|Kia EV6||$40,900||167||117 MPGe||232 miles|
|Volkswagen ID.4*||$40,760||201||99 MPGe||260 miles|
|Kia Niro EV||$39,990||201||112 MPGe||239 miles|
|Hyundai Kona Electric||$34,000||201||120 MPGe||258 miles|
|Chevrolet Bolt EUV||$33,500||200||115 MPGe||247 miles|
|Mazda MX-30||$33,470||143||92 MPGe||100 miles|
|Chevrolet Bolt EV||$31,500||200||120 MPGe||259 miles|
|Mini Cooper SE||$29,900||181||110 MPGe||114 miles|
|Nissan Leaf||$27,400||147||111 MPGe||149 miles|
As of February 2022. *Indicates EPA data on fuel economy and range was only available for 2021 models.
At less than $30,000, the Nissan Leaf and Mini Cooper SE are currently the most affordable options for Americans.
Released in 2010, the Nissan Leaf is one of the oldest EVs on the market. Widely considered a pioneer in the EV space, it’s one of the top-selling electric cars in the U.S.—in 2021, more than 14,000 cars were sold in America.
While the Leaf’s low price point may be appealing to many, it has the third shortest maximum range on the list at 149 miles before needing a recharge. The only other cars with shorter ranges were the Mini Cooper SE and the Mazda MX-30.
GMC’s Hummer EV pickup is the most expensive EV on the list, with a base price point of $110,295—however, GMC is planning to release less expensive versions of the Hummer EV over the coming years.
The only other EV pickup available in the U.S. market in early 2022 is Rivian’s R1T. However, more manufacturers like Ford and Chevrolet are planning to release their own EV pickups, and Tesla’s Cybertruck has been in the works for years.
And new EVs are quickly entering the market. For example, BMW’s all-electric i4 and iX have only recently become available for sale in the U.S.
The Top EV Manufacturers
There are a number of domestic and international manufacturers that sell EVs in America, including German manufacturer Audi, Swedish carmaker Volvo, and South Korean manufacturer Kia.
Here’s a breakdown of the 18 different manufacturers on the list, six of which are U.S. based:
|Manufacturer||Country of HQ||# EVs sold in the U.S.|
|Kia||🇰🇷 South Korea||2|
|Hyundai||🇰🇷 South Korea||2|
|Mini Cooper||🇩🇪 German||1|
Tesla has the highest number of EV models on the market, with four different vehicles available: the Model S, Model X, Model Y, and the Model 3. It’s one of the few manufacturers on the list that exclusively makes electric cars—the only others being Rivian and Lucid.
While anticipation has been building around Tesla’s Cybertruck, and murmurs of a cheaper Tesla have been circulating, Tesla’ CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that there will be no new Tesla models released in 2022. The company will instead focus on its existing models for the time being.
Are U.S. Consumers Ready to Transition to Electric Cars?
It’s important to note that, while EV adoption in America has increased over the years, the U.S. is still lagging behind other countries. Between 2015 and 2020, America’s EV fleet grew at an annual rate of 28%, while China’s grew by 51%, and Europe increased by 41%.
Why are so many Americans dragging their feet when it comes to electric cars? According to a survey by Pew Research Center, the cost is a big barrier, as well as concerns over their reliability compared to gas vehicles.
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