Europe best prepared for autonomous driving, Netherlands leads

24 April 2019 5 min. read

Europe is across the board the best prepared for the rapid rise of autonomous vehicles, according to an analysis by KPMG. The Netherlands retains its spot as the globe’s frontrunner for self-driving cars and trucks, followed by Singapore and Norway.

In its ‘Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index’, the global accounting and consulting firm explores how ready countries are for harnessing the massive potential of autonomous vehicles. According to one estimate, from Strategy&, by 2030 almost half of all kilometres driven in the EU could be driven by self-driving cars

The rise of autonomous vehicles comes on the back of several benefits the technology can bring, including less vehicle accidents (globally more than 1.3 million people die per year from accidents, with nine out of ten accidents involving human error) and a better ecological footprint. Meanwhile, a study by German consultancy Horváth & Partners in association with Cordence Worldwide found that sleeping and relaxing in the car are the prime reasons why consumers would be willing to exchange their hands on the wheel for an automated driver.

While the concept of a driverless car once seemed like the realm of science fiction, the technology is advancing with giant leaps. In the US, around fifty companies are testing self-driving technology in California, while Tesla, one of the front-runners in the field, recently announced that it is aiming to bring robotaxis to US roads next year. In China, German car manufacturer Daimler has been granted a license to test self-driving cars on public roads in Beijing, while rival Volkswagen now has autonomous cars driving in parts of Hamburg’s streets.

These countries are the best prepared for autonomous driving

Many other car companies have joined the bandwagon and are investing heavily in autonomous driving. Ford, General Motors and Nissan for instance are testing the latest technologies in the field, in a bid to stay ahead of the growing number of tech firms that are joining the battle for market leadership, including Uber and Waymo, a subsidiary of Google owner Alphabet.

However, “in order to make driving even safer and more comfortable in future, vehicles not only have to become autonomous and more intelligent – cities must also provide a digital ecosystem,” said Axel Heinrich, head of Volkswagen's research arm in a discussion with CNN.

Countries best prepared for autonomous driving

KPMG’s report looks into exactly that part of autonomous driving, assessing countries on four pillars for (future) success: policy & legislation, technology & innovation, infrastructure and consumer acceptance. Building on its top position last year, the Netherlands – a country with a population of only 16 million – has again taken top spot. “The Dutch ecosystem for autonomous vehicles is an outperformer,” explained Stijn de Groen, a Manager at KPMG in the Netherlands.

The country has a strong digitised infrastructure in place to support internet of things technologies (the backbone for autonomous driving technology), and when it comes to consumer acceptance, the Netherlands comes second only to Singapore. “The country also scores highly on many individual measures, including supportive regulations, road infrastructure quality and exposure to autonomous vehicles testing,” said Loek Kramer, KPMG’s Automotive practice leader in the Netherlands. He added that the country is also watching future opportunities closely, supporting projects including “truck platooning pilots and autonomous public transport in airports and harbours.”

Singapore retains its number two spot. The city state has focused heavily on the testing of the technology on its streets (by introducing an amendment to its Road Traffic Act), while deploying the infrastructure needed for future rollouts of the technology. The country’s public is also the most on board with the technology of any country surveyed, while government legislation takes the number one spot.

Norway takes the number three spot – ranking number two in terms of technology and innovation, but seventh in terms of policy and legislation. The country is already ahead in respect to electric vehicle rollout, while various tests of automated buses are underway. The top five is rounded off by the US and Sweden. The former has focused heavily on technology and innovation, while the latter is focused on infrastructure and consumer acceptance. Finland, the UK, Germany, the UAE and Japan complete the top ten.

Related: Why The Netherlands is the globe's top location for self-driving cars.