Chancellor Philip Hammond is set to give driverless cars the green light in Wednesday's Budget speech – and they could be widespread on the country's roads by 2021.
The chancellor is set to announce regulation changes in Wednesday's Budget speech that will allow companies to test fully driverless cars on UK roads. The move is said to be an effort by the government to show that Britain will be open for business after Brexit and portray some long-term strategic thinking.
The government will remove obstacles to the testing of driverless vehicles and leave the country with fewer regulations than are in place in the European Union and the USA, to try and promote the country as a haven for research and development. Limited trials of driverless cars are currently taking place in Coventry, Milton Keynes and Greenwich – with safety technicians on board – but any further deployment of the technology will require changes to laws such as the Road Traffic Act.
Hammond told the BBC the objective was to have 'fully driverless cars' without a safety engineer on board in use by 2021. 'Some would say that's a bold move, but we have to embrace these technologies if we want the UK to lead the next industrial revolution,' he said. The Treasury estimates that the autonomous car industry could be worth £23bn a year by 2035.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which represents UK car makers, welcomed the move: 'We support government’s measures to make the UK one of the best places in the world to develop, test and sell connected and autonomous vehicles. 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.'