UK set to lead self-driving, but Brexit car crash could threaten progress, report finds

Ford self-driving carThe UK could be in a position to lead the global connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) market, adding £62bn to the economy by 2030, should Brexit work out in favour of the industry.

According to a report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and Frost & Sullivan, the three areas that will help the UK toward gaining a ‘significant’ advantage in the CAV rollout will be supportive regulation, the enabling of infrastructure, and an attractive market.

“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,” said Sarwant Singh, senior partner and head of mobility at Frost & Sullivan. “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.”

The report already ranks the UK ahead of nations like Germany, the US, Japan, and South Korea due to already having insurance legislation in place, as well as the ‘most comprehensive’ review of road transport ongoing and more miles of road being able to be driven autonomously than other countries.

The industry and the government have already committed more than £500m to CAV research and development (R&D) and testing – with trials taking place across the country and four major CAV test beds in operation, alongside three additional sites and 80 collaborative R&D projects underway.

In order to continue with the UK’s CAV progress, the report recommends that the government updates road traffic laws, improves 4G coverage across all road networks, encourages local authorities to work with the industry to implement urban mobility services, and influences future harmonisation of international regulations to ensure vehicles can be operated both in the UK and abroad with little fuss.

The report also warns that a ‘no deal’ Brexit could have ‘lasting damage’ on the UK’s reputation as a destination worth CAV investment. Such an occurrence, the report cautions, could put all the potential for the UK to be the leader in CAV in jeopardy.

“A transport revolution stands before us as we move to self-driving cars and the UK is in pole position in this £62bn race,” said Mike Haws, SMMT chief executive. “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.

“Brexit has undermined our global reputation for political stability and it continues to devour valuable time and investment. We need the deadlock broken with ‘no deal’ categorically ruled out and a future relationship agreed that reflects the integrated nature of our industry and delivers frictionless trade.”

UK Autodrive ran CAV tests on UK roads with Jaguar, Ford, Tata