Research & Discoveries (R&D): McKinsey Survey Shows China Is Biggest Threat to American AV Leadership

Academics and experts around the world are studying how AVs can improve safety, enhance mobility, and create new economic opportunities, among other transformative benefits. AVIA’s Research & Discoveries (R&D) Series highlights these reports’ findings about how AVs can create a safer and more mobile world.

NEED TO KNOW (NTK): McKinsey recently completed a survey of 86 business leaders to gauge their perspective on the state of the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry globally. The survey revealed respondents believe a lack of regulatory certainty is a bottleneck to deployment, with an increasing number of respondents believing China may surpass the U.S. and be the first to deploy AVs.


In 2023, McKinsey again asked participants which market would be first to deploy AVs. In 2021, 58% believed North America would be the first to deploy AVs. Two years later, respondents were evenly split between believing that China or North America would be first.

McKinsey attributes this shift to China’s advancements in the AV race, driven by robust government backing, heightened investments in research and data availability, and a receptive consumer attitude.


When participants were asked, “What will be the biggest bottleneck for autonomous driving?” nearly 60% of respondents cited regulation in North America and over 50% answered the same in other regions. This percentage mirrors McKinsey’s results from 2021 and this continued absence of regulatory certainty is preventing the broad deployment of AVs in the U.S.


Despite major advancements in AV technology in America, global business leaders see the U.S. losing ground to China in broadly deploying AVs. Respondents also reaffirmed that regulation remains the biggest bottleneck to AV deployment. Coupled together, these findings underscore the importance of establishing a federal AV policy framework so the United States remains the global leader in autonomous vehicles.