I’ve been tracking trends for nearly 40 years.
And in that time, I’ve learned a valuable lesson: Don’t ever be surprised when technology advances ahead of even the most ambitious, optimistic predictions.
Look no further than the driverless auto trend to prove that statement right.
In tracking the driverless vehicle trend for the last several years, one thing is very apparent: You can’t trust at face value what you hear from automakers and their tech affiliates about the progress they are making.
The path to fully autonomous vehicles has many twists and turns. While investors need to be weary of the trend of over promising and under delivering from some automakers, the estimates of how and when autonomous cars will flood the market get sooner and sooner.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers predicts that by 2040 driverless vehicles will make up 75 percent of cars on the road.
But inside the engineering labs at universities, projections for fully automated vehicles able to navigate complex metro traffic patterns will become reality much sooner, perhaps within the next decade.
In Orlando, Florida, for example, state universities, transportation agencies and Kennedy Space Center have partnered with the city to begin testing of driverless cars.
One of several sites sanctioned by the Federal Department of Transportation, the effort includes construction of a small simulated city to test the vehicles before they’re put the real test: Driving autonomously on Interstate 4 or the Florida Turnpike.
Behind each major advance toward autonomous vehicles, are smaller technological advances coming from major universities and from tiny tech companies all over the world.
Innovations in virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, deep learning, optics, and ever-faster, smaller and more mobile and chip technology are emerging from all corners of the globe.
The market for self-driving vehicle technology is swelling, even beyond expectations made just a year ago that it would reach $100 billion by 2020.
But as it expands worldwide, and beyond cars to a wide variety of vehicles on land and sea, the market grows exponentially.
With big tech players — Google, Qualcomm, Nvidia, etc. — partnering with automakers from Toyota to Ford, from Mercedes-Benz to Volvo, and across the board, a variety of vehicle platforms, with a different set of options and uses, are being developed.
Technological advances in specific areas, such as virtual reality or optics, are moving to market quickly. They are being introduced feature-by-feature each year in new model vehicles.
This isn’t some pipedream, moonshot technology that you’ll never see in your lifetime. Driverless vehicles are more and more a reality…
On its corporate campus in Dearborn, Mich., Ford uses its automated “Dynamic Shuttle” to move people around.
Mercedes’ automated “Future Bus” drives itself in special street lanes, can stop itself at and leave from bus stops, and dodges pedestrians and other obstacles.
And in January, driverless buses arrived in Paris, France. The EZ10 buses are starting off slow, only covering a half-mile stretch connecting the Lyons and Austerlitz stations in the city, but if all goes well the pilot program, will expand later this year.
So I say, forget what the automakers and engineers predict for this huge tech trend. It’s too strong to slow down.
I am holding to my prediction: By 2025, every major automaker will have driverless vehicles to sell.
And you won’t have to wait that long for chances at huge fortunes from this unstoppable trend.
Until next time,
This story originally appeared in the Daily Reckoning