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Will Brexit prevent UK from winning the global self-driving race?

New report puts the UK in pole position in the market but maintaining the lead is dependent on leaving the EU with an orderly deal.

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Latest connected and autonomous solutions were on show at SMMT Connected 2019
Latest connected and autonomous solutions were on show at SMMT Connected 2019

The UK leads the global race to market for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) but success hinges on a favourable Brexit agreement, with the threat of ‘no deal’ putting investment and safety gains at risk, according to a report by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and research and consultancy firm, Frost & Sullivan.

 

The report, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Winning the Global Race to Market, analyses the wide-ranging societal and economic benefits to be achieved by gradually increasing CAVs on the road. It ranks the UK above other major automotive countries, including Germany, US, Japan and South Korea as a global destination for the mass roll-out of CAVs.

 

£62 billion boost to the economy

 

The report says the CAV market potentially presents a £62 billion boost to the UK economy by 2030. The country is in a strong position to capitalise, with more than £500 million already committed by industry and government to CAV R&D and testing.

 

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as autonomous emergency braking and collision warning are already available on the majority of new cars registered in the UK. And combined with the gradual introduction of automated vehicles from 2021, this will deliver massive safety benefits, says the report.

 

It also claims that 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.

“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”

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Winning the Global Race to Market 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.

 

Creating the right conditions

 

The conditions must be right, however, 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.

 

It stresses though that the UK’s departure from the EU must be orderly with a deal that supports both the industry and technological collaboration, especially in data. A ‘no deal’ Brexit will result in lasting damage to the UK’s reputation as a politically stable destination for inward investment, putting the benefits identified in the report at risk.

 

"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,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive. “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.”

 

The report was launched at the SMMT Connected 2019 event, which also showcased a number of connected and autonomous mobility solutions and prototypes.

 

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