While the auto industry and its high-tech partners continue to tout driverless and new-energy vehicles (NEVs) as a reality just a few years away, Trends Research Institute tracking shows the hype is overblown.

In 2018, investors and auto-industry watchers will learn just how many twists, turns, bumps and detours are along the road to vehicles that drive themselves or are powered by something other than a combustion engine.

Throughout 2017 and earlier, reports from the research and development side of the driverless/new-energy-vehicle world issued one under-reported tech failure after another.

Remember the dot.com bubble of the late 1990s? Remember Pets.com? The hype and overblown expectations of how internet-driven businesses could drive megabucks led to an explosion of start-ups over those next few years. 

But a large percentage quickly failed. The driverless-cars hype is following the same track, but with one big difference.

Speculators gambled on dot-coms that never developed. But now, the entire auto industry and segments of the high-tech world are investing billions in what we forecast is a bad bet. 

Driverless cars? Get real!

The auto industry is beset with millions of recalls that cost billions: Ignition switch problems? Air bags exploding? Sudden acceleration? The industry can’t get ignition switches to work, brakes to work, accelerators to work, doors to lock and unlock – and it’s telling the world a driverless car is coming just around the corner? 

Then there’s the NEV storm of hype. Every time Tesla speaks, the media force the world to listen.

While ambitions are big, battery or solar technology as vehicles’ sole energy source is proving quite limited. 

Yes, there has been progress in increasing battery effectiveness. However, fossil fuels retain more energy longer, and at a cheaper cost. And, electric vehicle sales, now only 1 percent of sales in the US, Europe and China, are estimated to hit a measly 2 percent within the next decade. 

An estimated 650,000 electric vehicles were sold worldwide in 2016, compared to the 84 million-strong traditional vehicles sold.

And despite China’s multibillion dollar push for NEVs, most people who drive hybrid vehicles use them in combustion-engine mode because a full tank of gas gets three times or more the mileage of electric vehicles. In addition, charging stations are scant. Even with a ramp-up to install them, it will be a long road before there are enough to make drivers comfortable.

TREND FORECAST: The Trends Research Institute forecasts that truly autonomous vehicles and driverless taxis flooding the freeways, highways and side streets of a country near you is a geek-fed fantasy of another lifetime. 

Moreover, marketing and public-relations specialists who spew one overblown, promise-the-world press release after another, will find competition from objective data in 2018. Studies and fact-based findings from scientists,  engineers and technologists, who don’t represent these special interests, will prove a driverless society by 2025 is a fallacy. 

However, we do forecast that autonomous vehicles specifically engineered for mining, trucking, city busing – moving people or cargo from point A to point B on specific routes – is the near/midterm future of driverless vehicles.

While the transition to multi-fuel cars is under way, the technology of electric or new-energy vehicles is not being mastered. The problem of recharging batteries, an 1800 invention, limits NEVs’ mass-market acceptability.

However, we also forecast that breakthroughs in combustion-engine development and higher-efficiency motor oils that significantly increase miles per gallon and diminish pollution also will help stall the move toward NEVs. 


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