— This is the script of CNBC's news report for China's CCTV on August 8, Tuesday.
The savings include lower operating and training costs as well as a significant decrease in fuel and insurance costs. UBS believes that just from the employment of pilots alone, the annual savings can go up to USD 26 billion. Overall, the aviation industry is expected to save more than USD 35billion annually although many people think that the technology for autonomous planes may still very well be out of our reach.
Yet, in June this year, Reuters reported that aviation Giant Boeing had started to further develop the technology for self-flying planes. Just last week, Boeing set up a new in-house unit to pursue the production and development of avionics and electronics system. Boeing also has plans to begin testing some of this technology next year. According to Boeing, the investment to develop this technology is motivated by increasing number of travelers that has caused the demand for air transport to soar. Statistics have predicted that the aviation industry would need 1.5 million pilots in the next 20 years. Obviously, this would incur a huge cost and therefore pilotless planes would significantly be very helpful in this area.
As of now, this technology still appears to be daunting. Firstly, in terms of public acceptance of pilotless planes, a UBS survey found that 54% of respondents were unable to accept self-flying aircraft and only 17% welcomed the technology. The survey also found that young people were more willing to experiment with this idea, while the elderly showed more distrust for such technology. Also, cargo aircraft is cited to be the first kind of planes to undergo pilotless technology. This would likely reduce the number of pilots needed by half and slowly all planes would be replaced with this technology.
UBS also believes that this technology is still at its infancy and would need around 5 years before it would be deployed. Other than gaining public acceptance, pilotless aircraft also face challenges in terms of design, security and its technology. Usually, during an accident, self-flying planes have more dire consequences than self-driving cars. Indeed, the technology of self-flying aircraft is only at its infancy. However, on the other hand, the competition in the self-driving car industry has reached an unprecedented stage.
Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, revealed to its investors that nearly 63,000 customers cancelled their Tesla Model 3 orders last year. Analysts believed that this was largely due to its long waiting time and since many other car manufactures have also launched their version of self-driving cars, consumers have decided to not wait and turn to other options.
In addition to Toyota, Audi and other car manufacturing giants, Chinese manufacturers, including Jia Yue Ting, founder of Le.com who is currently in America developing self-driving cars, in hopes of drawing near to a driverless future. This week, his electrical car start-up unveiled a new manufacturing facility in the Los Angeles. Indeed, for electric cars, the car battery is a key determining factor. Some analysts believed that although Tesla's current lithium has an edge over other batteries in the industry, the intensification of the battery business would see Tesla facing pressure from other manufactures in China and Germany. Therefore, in an interview, Elon Musk, emphasized the importance of battery development.
[Elon Musk, Tesla CEO] "where somebody has some great claim that they got some awesome battery. You know what, send us a sample or if you don't trust us, send it to an independent lab where the parameters can be verified, otherwise, FTF."
According to a report in June this year, China's battery capacity, from now till 2021, would increase to 120 gigawatts-hours. As for Germany, it would reach 34 gigawatts per hour. In comparison to these, Tesla's battery capacity is only at 35 gigawatts per hour. We will continue to keep watch.
CNBC's Qian Chen reporting from Singapore.