Britain's role in Driverless Car Industry Can the British lead the autonomous car race

Ever imagined that most of the mundane problems of civilization, like traffic congestion, pollution and accidents, could be solved by automated driverless cars? The autonomous vehicle industry is at the cusp of reaping benefits out of the latest technological advancements all over the world. In a recent study, Intel predicts the self-driving vehicles to be a $7 trillion annual revenue stream boasting new proficiencies annually by 2050. While countries are striving to deal with the AI strategy on deploying driverless cars, none of them are confident enough to put the technology on-road for testing purposes? Could the UK lead the way for a niche in the industry? Is a self-driving vehicle truly safe in the world full of fickle errors and variable driving conditions? Where does UK stand in the world of autonomous vehicles? What measures does the UK government take to lead the market? And what could it all mean for the future of auto sector in Britain?

The UK may lack a major in automobiles; unlike Germany, Japan or the research immensity of the US or China. But the UK government has not given up on the dream of positioning itself as the global leader for autonomous car development and innovation. Britain is no longer just known as the “Workshop of the World”, as of the early 1800s, wherein the British manufactured goods dominated world trade by beating its competitors in terms of price, quantity, and quality. The UK now aims to be the new world center for latest technologies. The government wants people to come to the UK to learn about machine learning, work in AI, innovate, and invest in AI. To entice people to work in AI, the Government is advertising its business-friendly approach. The UK is promising to regulate only when necessary and invest billions into the economy.

The generous UK government

In the earlier budget announced by UK’s finance minister Philip Hammond, he allocated USD 99 million of country’s fund for Artificial Intelligence with a vision to put driverless cars on UK roads by 2020. Philip also announced regulation changes to allow Britain’s driverless car industry to get their cars on road within as little as three years. Experts say that this kind of commitment and supportive regulatory framework from the government will reposition Britain as a European leader. These supportive measures from the UK government will turn the country into one of the best places in the world to develop, test and sell connected and autonomous vehicles. The British government ensures that they rank first to grasp the benefits of this exciting new technology while also encouraging further investment into the industry.

A ‘co-ordination hub’ for driverless car industry

The government has recently launched a “co-ordination hub”, named MERIDIAN, to test driverless cars under its Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) investment programme worth £100m. With an intent to combine the UK’s existing CAV testing centers and create “a concentrated cluster” of testing facilities that covers all testing requirements for CAV technology, new bases are planned by the government as centralized hubs in Coventry and Stratford. Through these strategically planned hub, the UK has a unique opportunity to focus on four important areas:

  • connected environments;
  • advanced CAV testing and development;
  • new mobility services; and
  • data and cyber security

The self-driving car market is expected to be worth £ 907bn globally by 2035. In an independent study released earlier this year, the UK was ranked second globally for innovation in the self-driving car sector, and first for policy.

Smart technology, smarter and safer drives

The UK government recognizes the need for continued access to a competent talent pool of engineers and technology specialists. Britain’s leading technocrats from across the industry have taken up the initiative to ensure the country has roads fit for future and ready for self-driving cars. Envisioning connected roads and smarter societies, a dramatical dip in accidents, and billions of pounds to the economy, self-driving vehicles are set to transform the lives in Britain. The country is also cautious about cyber treats and casualties involved. Britain is keen on dividing pedestrian paths from vehicle roadway with regards to public safety–whether or not those vehicles are being driven by people or by computer chips.

Problems associated with the UK

While the huge investments by the UK government may promote the country’s place in AI among its competitors, there are some economic issues that could obscure the government’s effort. Following are some unavoidable circumstances that the UK government needs to operate in;

  • There is caution over Brexit and the British earnings are dropping. The monetary constraints, as well as the effects of Brexit on immigration and market access may push potential workers to seek more rewarding destinations.
  • The new immigration laws could add uncertainty over the eligibility to travel and work in the UK for most of the eligible talents in AI.
  • The UK does have AI firms of its own and its more than 160 accelerators may create more companies, but it is unclear if companies will come to Britain if they can do well within the European Single Market.
  • While the Government may not control wages, and cannot solve the Brexit issue overnight, it behooves the Government to nudge companies to attract and retain highly-skilled and well-paid workers.

While the future of safe and reliable transportation with automated vehicles is a grand challenge, the world is already on the cusp of a profound change in how we move people, goods and services around. There are several hurdles to overcome, however: public acuities of safety and regulation are as daunting as barriers as any technological challenge.