Driverless cars ‘will be on British roads within four years’

Driverless cars ‘will be on British roads within four years’
Driverless cars ‘will be on British roads within four years’

Driverless cars will be allowed onto the UK road network within four years under plans to relax the regulations around testing the technology, the Chancellor has announced.

Philip Hammond said he wanted “fully driverless cars” with no safety attendant on board to be in use on British roads by 2021, with the aim of making the UK a world leader.

“Once we’re outside the EU we’ll be able to make national regulations for the long term”

Philip Hammond

In the Budget on Wednesday, the Government is expected to set out changes to regulations allowing developers to apply to test driverless vehicles on roads used by other cars.

Officials estimate that the industry will be worth £28bn to the economy by 2035 and could support 27,000 jobs, with Mr Hammond claiming it could help the UK “lead the next industrial revolution”.

Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s largest car manufacturer has already started testing driverless cars on public roads, but a human has always been on board to react to emergencies.

The trials, which rely on sensors that allow the cars to detect traffic, pedestrians and signals, took place in Coventry city centre over several weeks.

Brexit benefit

Mr Hammond said on Sunday that one of the positive economic benefits of Britain leaving the EU would be the ability to relax regulations for new technology firms, allowing them to flourish.

“The way the EU works is when new technologies come along, often it takes the European Union a little bit of time to get round to grabbing…the powers to regulate them,” he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday.

“Once we’re outside the EU we’ll be able to make national regulations for the long term, trying to stimulate new technology sectors.”

The Chancellor admitted that he had never experienced a driverless car for himself, but that he planned to take a trip in one on Monday during a visit to the West Midlands with Theresa May.

A technology-heavy Budget is also expected to include £75m of funding to develop artificial intelligence, £400m for electric car charge points and £100m to boost clean car purchases.

Read more: How self-driving cars will change your life

It will also contain a £160m investment in next-generation 5G mobile networks across the UK, which will include testing on UK roads to help provide the network needed for driverless cars.

A further £35m will be put towards on giving rail passengers reliable mobile signals and “lightning speed” internet during train journeys, with trials due to begin on the Trans-Pennine route.

Critics have suggested that the technology necessary for driverless cars to succeed is a long way from being ready, with some saying it could be decades before they can cope with any driving scenario.

But Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said the changes being proposed by the Government could make the UK one of the world’s best places for firms to develop and sell driverless cars.

“These vehicles will transform our roads and society, dramatically reducing accidents and saving thousands of lives every year, while adding billions of pounds to the economy,” he added.

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