Ranked: The Autonomous Vehicle Readiness of 20 Countries
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Ranked: The Autonomous Vehicle Readiness of 20 Countries

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
    • 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.

      • Insurance
        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.
      • Travel
        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.
        • 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.

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Misc

Brand Loyalty is Declining for Most Luxury Automakers

Brand loyalty has declined for most luxury automakers, but three brands—Tesla, Maserati, and Genesis—appear to have bucked the trend.

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Brand Loyalty is Declining for Most Luxury Automakers

New research conducted by S&P Global Mobility has found that brand loyalty—measured as the percentage of buyers that go back to the same brand for their next vehicle—is falling across the luxury segment.

In this infographic, we’ve visualized the results of this research, which spans from January 2020 to April 2022.

Brand Loyalty Losers

The following brands have all experienced a drop in brand loyalty over the time period.

For additional context, we’ve also included each brand’s score in the J.D. Power 2022 Initial Quality Study. This is measured based on the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) in the first 90 days of ownership.

BrandPercentage Point Change
in Brand Loyalty
PP100
🇬🇧 Land Rover-9.2193
🇩🇪 Porsche-8.5200
🇺🇸 Lincoln-7.9167
🇩🇪 Audi-7.3239
🇩🇪 Mercedes-Benz-7.0189
🇮🇹 Alfa Romeo-6.6211
🇺🇸 Cadillac-6.4163
🇸🇪 Volvo-5.3256
🇯🇵 Infiniti-5.2204
🇬🇧 Jaguar-5.1210
🇯🇵 Lexus-4.8157
Luxury average-4.5199
🇯🇵 Acura-2.7192
🇩🇪 BMW-2.3165

Land Rover experienced the biggest drop in loyalty, despite a better than average PP100 rating. One potential reason is timing⁠—the brand’s premier model, the Range Rover, has been in its fourth generation since 2012. The SUV has become relatively dated, though a new fifth generation was recently revealed for the 2022 model year.

Two Volkswagen Group brands, Audi and Porsche, also fared poorly in terms of loyalty. This is somewhat surprising, as both brands offer a portfolio of both gasoline and electric models. Many competitors, such as Acura, Lexus, and Maserati, have yet to release an EV.

Brand Loyalty Winners

Three brands have managed to buck the trend, as shown below.

BrandPercentage Point Change
in Brand Loyalty
PP100
Luxury average-4.5199
🇺🇸 Tesla+4.0226
🇮🇹 Maserati+4.3255
🇰🇷 Genesis+8.5156

We can draw parallels between Tesla and Apple, in that both have incredibly loyal followers.

For instance, between March 2021 to April 2022, 62% of buyers/households who returned to market and previously owned a Model 3 purchased a new Tesla. That’s an impressive statistic, especially when we consider Tesla’s history of build quality issues.

Maserati appears to be in the same boat. The Italian automaker has strengthened its brand loyalty by 4.3 percentage points, despite having the luxury segment’s worst PP100. Perhaps build quality matters less than we think.

Another Factor to Consider

Ongoing supply chain issues could also be contributing to wide-spread declines in loyalty. Rather than waiting several months (or in the case of EVs, years), buyers may switch to a different brand that has cars in stock.

We are still monitoring it week to week, but up to now basically worldwide, we had no issues running production.
– Joerg Burzer, Mercedes-Benz

Many automakers have reported that their supply issues are diminishing, though new economic challenges have risen. For example, surging inflation has pushed the price of a new car to record highs. Combined with rising interest rates (cost of borrowing), this could negatively impact the demand for new cars.

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Energy

Visualized: Battery Vs. Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Understand the science behind hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and how they differ from traditional EVs.

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Battery Electric Vs. Hydrogen Fuel Cell

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Since the introduction of the Nissan Leaf (2010) and Tesla Model S (2012), battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) have become the primary focus of the automotive industry.

This structural shift is moving at an incredible rate—in China, 3 million BEVs were sold in 2021, up from 1 million the previous year. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the number of models available for sale is expected to double by 2024.

In order to meet global climate targets, however, the International Energy Agency claims that the auto industry will require 30 times more minerals per year. Many fear that this could put a strain on supply.

“The data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals.”
– Fatih Birol, IEA

Thankfully, BEVs are not the only solution for decarbonizing transportation. In this infographic, we explain how the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) works.

How Does Hydrogen Fuel Cell Work?

FCEVs are a type of electric vehicle that produces no emissions (aside from the environmental cost of production). The main difference is that BEVs contain a large battery to store electricity, while FCEVs create their own electricity by using a hydrogen fuel cell.

Major BEV ComponentsMajor FCEV Components
BatteryBattery
Onboard chargerHydrogen fuel tank
Electric motorFuel cell stack
Electric motor
Exhaust

Let’s go over the functions of the major FCEV components.

Battery

First is the lithium-ion battery, which stores electricity to power the electric motor. In an FCEV, the battery is smaller because it’s not the primary power source. For general context, the Model S Plaid contains 7,920 lithium-ion cells, while the Toyota Mirai FCEV contains 330.

Hydrogen Fuel Tank

FCEVs have a fuel tank that stores hydrogen in its gas form. Liquid hydrogen can’t be used because it requires cryogenic temperatures (−150°C or −238°F). Hydrogen gas, along with oxygen, are the two inputs for the hydrogen fuel cell.

Fuel Cell Stack and Motor

The fuel cell uses hydrogen gas to generate electricity. To explain the process in layman’s terms, hydrogen gas passes through the cell and is split into protons (H+) and electrons (e-).

Protons pass through the electrolyte, which is a liquid or gel material. Electrons are unable to pass through the electrolyte, so they take an external path instead. This creates an electrical current to power the motor.

Exhaust

At the end of the fuel cell’s process, the electrons and protons meet together and combine with oxygen. This causes a chemical reaction that produces water (H2O), which is then emitted out of the exhaust pipe.

Which Technology is Winning?

As you can see from the table below, most automakers have shifted their focus towards BEVs. Notably missing from the BEV group is Toyota, the world’s largest automaker.

FCEVs struggling to build momentum

Hydrogen fuel cells have drawn criticism from notable figures in the industry, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess.

Green hydrogen is needed for steel, chemical, aero,… and should not end up in cars. Far too expensive, inefficient, slow and difficult to rollout and transport.
– Herbert Diess, CEO, Volkswagen Group

Toyota and Hyundai are on the opposing side, as both companies continue to invest in fuel cell development. The difference between them, however, is that Hyundai (and sister brand Kia) has still released several BEVs.

This is a surprising blunder for Toyota, which pioneered hybrid vehicles like the Prius. It’s reasonable to think that after this success, BEVs would be a natural next step. As Wired reports, Toyota placed all of its chips on hydrogen development, ignoring the fact that most of the industry was moving a different way. Realizing its mistake, and needing to buy time, the company has resorted to lobbying against the adoption of EVs.

Confronted with a losing hand, Toyota is doing what most large corporations do when they find themselves playing the wrong game—it’s fighting to change the game.
– Wired

Toyota is expected to release its first BEV, the bZ4X crossover, for the 2023 model year—over a decade since Tesla launched the Model S.

Challenges to Fuel Cell Adoption

Several challenges are standing in the way of widespread FCEV adoption.

One is in-car performance, though the difference is minor. In terms of maximum range, the best FCEV (Toyota Mirai) was EPA-rated for 402 miles, while the best BEV (Lucid Air) received 505 miles.

Two greater issues are 1) hydrogen’s efficiency problem, and 2) a very limited number of refueling stations. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are just 48 hydrogen stations across the entire country, with 47 located in California, and 1 located in Hawaii.

On the contrary, BEVs have 49,210 charging stations nationwide, and can also be charged at home. This number is sure to grow, as the Biden administration has allocated $5 billion for states to expand their charging networks.

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