UK in pole position in £62 billion self-driving car race

A new report published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and Frost & Sullivan has found that the UK could be set for a £62bn windfall from connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) by 2030.

The report, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Winning the Global Race to Market, has found that the UK is in pole position in the global race to market for CAVs.

The UK is in a strong position to capitalise, with more than £500m already committed by industry and government to CAV research and development and testing. Autonomous driving trials are taking place in UK towns and cities, while the UK is home to four major CAV test beds and three additional sites focused on highways, rural and parking, with more than 80 collaborative R&D projects underway. The next game-changing step is to move from testing CAV technologies to deployment in the real world.

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), combined with the gradual introduction of automated vehicles from 2021, is expected to deliver massive safety benefits. Over the next decade, the technology is set to prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives. At the same time, some 420,000 new jobs will be created, including in the automotive industry and other sectors such as telecoms and digital services. Driving commuters, meanwhile, will gain back the equivalent of a full working week thanks to more ‘downtime’ and smoother traffic flows during their commute.

The report identifies three critical areas that will help CAV roll-out and in which the UK has a significant advantage: supportive regulation, enabling infrastructure and an attractive market. With the world’s first insurance legislation for autonomous vehicles already in place, the most comprehensive review of road transport underway and more miles across motorways, urban and rural roads able to be driven autonomously, the UK is already ahead of global rivals in its readiness to commercialise self-driving technology. The report ranks the UK above other major automotive countries, including Germany, US, Japan and South Korea as a global destination for the mass rollout of CAVs.

To realise this potential, however, the conditions must be right, and sustained support from government will be vital. The report’s key recommendations for government include updating road traffic laws, improving 4G coverage across all road networks, encouraging local authorities to work with industry to implement urban mobility services and influencing future harmonisation of international regulations to ensure these new vehicles can operate seamlessly between the UK and abroad.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, ‘A transport revolution stands before us as we move to self-driving cars and the UK is in pole position in this £62bn race. Government and industry have already invested millions to lay the foundations, and the opportunities are dramatic – new jobs, economic growth and improvements across society. The UK’s potential is clear. We are ahead of many rival nations but to realise these benefits we must move fast.’

Sarwant Singh, senior partner and head of mobility, Frost & Sullivan, said, ‘The UK already has the essential building blocks – forward thinking legislation, advanced technology infrastructure, a highly skilled labour force, and a tech savvy customer base – to spearhead CAV deployment over the next decade. However, it will require sustained and coordinated efforts by all key stakeholders, especially the government, to realise the significant annual economic benefits forecast for the UK from CAV deployment by 2030 and drive the vision of safe, convenient and accessible mobility for all.’

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