Self-driving and autonomous vehicles, in particular, are much closer to reality than most people and businesses realise.
According to Gartner, over the next six years, self-aware vehicles will emerge first that are increasingly also able to autonomously sense, interpret, decide, act and communicate with other automobiles, infrastructures, businesses, people and organisations.
As this self-awareness matures into the next decade, vehicles will become progressively smarter and autonomous, leading to the most fundamental change in transportation, mobility and society.
"At the core of this change is not just the accumulation of hardware, software and data communication technologies," said Thilo Koslowski, vice president and distinguished analyst, Gartner.
"Gartner's Maverick research finds that the real impact of self-driving vehicles is the disruption of our existing personal and societal beliefs and the reorganization of established business assumptions in many industries.
"At the same time, self-driving vehicles will enable radically new digital business opportunities, such as personal delivery services that utilize a consumer's driverless vehicle to transport packages between two businesses.
Koslowski believes the benefits of self-driving vehicles for individuals and the automotive industry are significant, and range from accident avoidance, to optimised energy and traffic utilisation, to improved emission compliance.
"It is critical to note that all of these benefits can be realized at meaningful levels even only with the realisation of the first stage of sophistication for self-driving vehicles: automated vehicles," Koslowski adds.
"However, only autonomous and driverless vehicles are capable of achieving the fundamental disruption at the societal and business levels that will permanently impact our beliefs and replace existing business assumptions with new ones."
According to a June 2014 Gartner survey of over 6,000 consumers, nearly two-fifths of U.S. and German vehicle owners are interested in purchasing a fully or partially autonomous vehicle the next time they shop for a vehicle.
Equally as many vehicles owners would even consider giving up traditional vehicle ownership for having on-demand access to getting an autonomous vehicle whenever they need one.
Autonomous and driverless vehicles still have many obstacles to overcome before they meet all consumer, industry and legal requirements, but despite such challenges, the societal benefits from autonomous vehicles could outweigh potential disadvantages and concerns.
Furthermore, Koslowski says the potential of fundamental business disruptions from autonomous and driverless vehicles will motivate industry leaders and newcomers to expand research and development activities, and to dramatically advance the progress of the technologies over the next two decades.
"The evolution of the self-driving vehicle from automated to autonomous vehicles is already underway, and significant investments are being made by individual companies and the entire automotive industry to accelerate the pace of innovation and do actual prototyping on public roads," Koslowski adds.
"We predict that by 2016, three companies will have announced concrete plans for upcoming automobile launches that will offer autonomous vehicle technology."
By 2025, Gartner predicts that vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication will be available in approximately 30 percent of passenger vehicles in use in mature markets, which will increase the reliability and accelerate the rollout of autonomous vehicles.
And by 2030, autonomous-driving-capable vehicles will represent approximately 25 percent of the passenger vehicle population in use in mature markets.