The introduction of robotaxis and roboshuttles – self-driving cars for one or more passengers – can make mobility significantly cheaper for users from 2030 than it is today, the experts from McKinsey write in a current study. Shared roboshuttles in cities could then be up to 40% cheaper per kilometre travelled than driving a private car, which in Germany is around 60 cents for a compact car. This would put roboshuttles on a price level with local public transport. Robotaxis for a single passenger would then only be 20% more expensive than a private car – and would only cost half of what users spend on taxis or e-hailing today. The analysis was based on data from more than 2,800 cities in 110 countries and 75 decision-makers from the industry were interviewed.
“The robotaxi revolution is picking up speed again,” says Kersten Heineke, a partner in McKinsey’s Frankfurt office. At the beginning of the pandemic, individual research projects were paused or put on hold. “But now technology companies in particular are investing heavily in autonomous driving again.” In total, more than 30 billion euros in external investments will flow into this technology in 2020 and 2021 alone.
Asked about the possible introduction of (partially) autonomous vehicles, a majority of the experts from the industry assume that the Level 4 motorway pilot – i.e. the complete takeover of the driving function by the car on well-mapped motorway sections under favorable weather conditions – will already be available in private cars in 2024/2025.
These initial applications for Level 4 driving features will require between $500 million and $1.5 billion in investment. “These new offerings also create new monetisation opportunities for car manufacturers,” says Andreas Tschiesner, head of McKinsey’s European automotive consulting. While the surveyed decision-makers from the established car industry predominantly assume that car buyers will activate these functions with a one-time payment, start-ups and technology companies rather expect that such offers will function primarily as a monthly subscription model.
The industry experts assume that widely available robotaxi offers will be rolled out in 2026. “Especially with robotaxis, we will see massive progress in the second half of the 20s – costs will drop by half between 2025 and 2030,” says Heineke. Cheaper hardware, improvements in fleet management and economies of scale would make this price drop possible. Heineke: “Nevertheless, the price jump between initial Level 4 functions like the motorway pilot and advanced Level 4 functions like for the robot taxi is still significant.” The industry experts surveyed assume five times higher costs for.
When it comes to the existing barriers to the development of autonomous vehicles, 60% of respondents point to regulatory hurdles or the lack of clear legal requirements as the biggest obstacle, ahead of technology development and customer interest.