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Nevada is the first US state to approve public-road testing of Google’s driverless car (Photo: DMV Nevada)

Self-driving cars may be a feature on the world's roads "sooner than you think," according to a report prepared by consultants KPMG in cooperation with CAR, the Center for Automotive Research.

"The pace of innovation is speeding up and the industry is on the brink of a new technological revolution with 'self-driving' vehicles," said Gary Silberg, national automotive industry leader at KPMG and co-author of the report.

Various carmakers and other firms are already testing vehicles that either drive themselves or have a variety of  autonomous-driving features on board. Search company Google earlier this year received approval from the state of Nevada to test a driverless car on public roads.

The KPMG report, titled "Self-Driving Car: The Next Revolution," predicts that autonomous cars will dramatically change the competitive landscape as well as how people interact with their cars. Road and city design will also undergo changes as autonomous driving becomes a regular feature.

The report, which is based on interviews with leading technologists, automotive industry leaders, academicians, and regulators, says the convergence of sensor-based and communication-based vehicle technologies could help lower the cost of traffic crashes, reduce traffic jams and solve urban parking problems.

CAR said market forces will give a big push to autonomous driving and will give a boost to the industry as well. "The marketplace will not merely accept self-driving vehicles, it will be the engine pulling the auto industry forward," said Richard Wallace, director, Transportation Systems Analysis at CAR.

The report predicted that the convergence of sensor-based and connected-vehicle technologies will open up new opportunities for automotive and technology companies. "Over the longer term, the evolution of these advancements will cause a rebalancing of the automotive value chain, with non-traditional firms playing a more significant role," the report predicted.

Despite the optimistic tone of the report, KPMG's Silberg noted that the age of self-driving isn't there yet. "Getting there will require that many pieces of a large puzzle fit together," he said. "When and how that will happen remain open questions."