Government sets out funding package and legal roadmap for autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles could be on UK roads by 2025 following government plans to legislate on safety and to provide funding for self-driving development.


The government believes the market for autonomous vehicles could create up to 38,000 jobs and be worth an estimated £42bn.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We want the UK to be at the forefront of developing and using this fantastic technology, and that is why we are investing millions in vital research into safety and setting the legislation to ensure we gain the full benefits that this technology promises.”

The plans include £100m in funding, with £34m confirmed on August 19, 2022 for research to support safety developments and inform more detailed legislation. This could include researching the performance of self-driving cars in poor weather conditions and how they interact with pedestrians, other vehicles, and cyclists.

From the funding package, £20m is being made available to help kick-start commercial self-driving services, which could include grocery deliveries or shuttle pods assisting passengers moving through airports. £6m will also be used for further market research and to support commercialisation of the technology.

As well as a commercial opportunities, the government believes self-driving vehicles will ‘revolutionise public transport and passenger travel’, better connect rural communities and reduce road collisions caused by human error.

Commenting on the announcement, Jonathan Hewett, chief executive of Thatcham Research, said. “The cars we drive are changing at an unprecedented rate. But the automotive industry is still at the lower end of a steep learning curve. It’s vital that we balance the risk with the opportunity, gathering intelligence on the different use cases for the technology and in turn understanding what it means for all road users.”

Hewett continued: “All the ingredients are present for the UK to become a global leader in this space. However, it is paramount that we make sense of the data these vehicles will provide, to inform risk and ultimately pave the way for safe adoption.

“Any challenges encountered by vehicles with self-driving capability will be heavily scrutinised. Complete clarity around the driver’s legal responsibilities, along with how the technology is marketed, how the dealer describes systems when handing over the keys and how the self-driving system itself communicates with the driver, will play its part too.”

“This package of measures, including both funding and policy proposals, should boost research and drive commercial opportunities for the development and deployment of self-driving technology,” added Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive. “This has tremendous potential, not just in improving road safety, but also in job creation, logistics efficiency, supporting economic growth and helping provide mobility to more people. Manufacturers and developers are set to deploy vehicles with automated features in the coming years, but we must quicken the pace of the necessary regulatory reforms if Britain is to keep up with key overseas markets.”

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