The Netherlands remains top of the KPMG 2019 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index with Singapore, Norway, the United States and Sweden making up the top five.
Finland and the United Kingdom come in sixth and seventh respectively.
This is the second year of the report, which combines a range of 25 measures to come up with individual country scores.
Road deaths dramatically reduced
The report makes the case for AV dramatically reducing the number of road deaths. It notes that 1.35 million people were killed on the world’s roads in 2016, up from 1.25 million in 2013, according to the World Health Organization, with studies suggesting that human error causes at least nine in 10 accidents.
It adds that removing human error risk by moving to AVs should “deliver an enormous reduction in vehicle-related deaths — something that is important to remember, in light of the first death caused by the testing of AVs, as well as one from the use of a partially autonomous car, in 2018.”
The report also sets out the areas of the economy and society where it sees a radical transformation.
Policing: fewer resources may be needed to police roads with AVs programmed to obey traffic laws.
Healthcare: fewer traffic accidents may mean less demand for emergency surgery and fewer organ donors. AVs may make it easier for older and infirm people to travel to appointments, allowing greater centralization of services.
Air and rail: fewer passengers on some routes if AVs allow users to relax or sleep their way to long-distance destinations.
Media and advertising: AV users freed from driving could turn their attention from audio to video, written word and social media; advertising could be targeted by location, potentially subsidizing the cost of travel.
Power generation: EVs including AVs, will increase demand, but ability to choose when to charge at home could boost variable-output renewable power.
Power grids: home charging will require strengthened local grids, but smart control of when to charge as well as use of plugged-in vehicles as batteries could smooth demand.
The report notes that AV will bring huge opportunities for public transport to be transformed.
“Despite the focus on when driverless cars will be available, autonomous minibuses are already providing passenger services in countries including Norway, Sweden and France, and AVs are likely to be as important in transforming public transport as they will be for private cars. They will allow public transport providers to move from fixed-route, fixed-timetable bus services to on-demand autonomous alternatives, which would efficiently and effectively take people from door to door.”
The report also suggests that there could be very different impacts on urban landscapes although it isn’t a foregone conclusion that it will increase density in cities. It could even lead to more urban sprawl.
Changing the urban landscape
“AVs are likely to change city landscapes — although this might take different directions depending on how usage develops. If AVs lead to less car ownership, less urban space will be needed for roads, parking and garaging, potentially allowing higher population densities and more green space. If people prefer to own AVs then they may choose to live further from work, leading to more low-density suburbs, more road traffic and a need for daytime parking for their AVs, although this could be on the edge of cities rather than next to offices.”