As was widely trailed, this week saw the UK government announce plans to change regulations to allow developers to test autonomous vehicles on British roads without human drivers having to be present.
In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor Phillip Hammond said that “bold reforms” to get driverless cars on UK roads by 2021 would see the country “leading the world” in autonomous technologies. Hammond believes that driverless vehicles and systems will add £28bn to the British economy by 2035, creating 27,000 jobs.
Reaction from the UK auto industry was predictably positive with Mike Hawes of the SMMT commenting “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”.
Chipmaker and autonomous technology leader Intel was also upbeat, remarking that: “The autonomous industry will be delighted by this pledge of support for developing technologies,” it said. “The next challenge is trust and adoption, and we are committed to bringing safe, autonomous cars to the mainstream. In turn, we will see the UK’s ambitions realised as a global hub of innovation in the future.”
Exact details of how the rules will be relaxed and how the next stage of testing and validation of AVs on UK public roads will proceed are expected early in the new year.
As to how many L4/L5 driverless passenger cars will be in the hands of real customers in Britain in the year 2021 (as distinct from autonomous micro-transit shuttles operating at low speeds on pre-ordained routes)? Our guess would be zero but we would be delighted to be proved wrong!