In a new study, IHS Automotive forecasts total worldwide sales of self-driving cars will grow from nearly 230,000 in 2025 to 11.8m annually by 2035. Of that total, some 7m are expected to have both driver control and autonomous control and 4.8m will have only autonomous control.

Self driving cars that include driver control are expected to hit highways around the globe before 2025 and self-driving "only" cars are anticipated around 2030, according to an emerging technologies study on Autonomous Cars from IHS Automotive.

In all, there should be nearly 54m self-driving cars in use globally by 2035, IHS says.

The study anticipates that nearly all of the vehicles in use are likely to be self-driving cars or self-driving commercial vehicles sometime after 2050.

IHS says the price premium for the autonomous electronics technology will add between US$7,000 and US$10,000 to a car's sticker price in 2025, a figure that will drop to around US$5,000 in 2030 and about US$3,000 in 2035 when no driver controls are available.

"There are several benefits from self-driving cars to society, drivers and pedestrians," says Egil Juliussen, principal analyst for infotainment and autonomous driver assisted systems at IHS Automotive.

"Accident rates will plunge to near zero for self-driving cars (SDCs), although other cars will crash into SDCs, but as the market share of SDCs on the highway grows, overall accident rates will decline steadily," Juliussen says. "Traffic congestion and air pollution per car should also decline because SDCs can be programmed to be more efficient in their driving patterns."

The study also notes some potential barriers to SDC deployment and two major technology risks: software reliability and cyber security. The barriers include implementation of a legal framework for self-driving cars and establishment of government rules and regulations.

Several automakers have said publicly they will have autonomous cars on the market by 2020, or earlier.

Additionally, the IHS study says the first group of autonomous cars will have so-called Level 3 capability - limited self-driving that enables the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic and environmental conditions and includes auto pilot for highway travel and parking. Coming later in the decade will be SDCs with 'Level 4 capability' - self-driving but with human controls.

North America is forecast to account for 29% of worldwide sales of self-driving cars with human controls (level 4) and self-driving only cars (level 5) in 2035, or nearly 3.5m vehicles. China will capture the second largest share at 24%, or more than 2.8m units, while Western Europe will account for 20% of the total, 2.4m vehicles.