UK Wants to Become Global Leader in Autonomous Vehicles

UK Wants to Become Global Leader in Autonomous Vehicles

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The United Kingdom is busy speeding up its plans to become a global leader in the field of autonomous cars.

This week the British government is awarding £25m for up to six projects that will study self-driving vehicle technology, carry out tests on highways and do remote-control parking tests. This is the second contest in a programme that the country’s automotive minister, Richard Harrington, predicted will result in autonomous vehicles coming in production within the next ten years.

The nation’s industrial strategy for the post-Brexit era heavily concentrates on technology, with driverless technology and AI both playing a crucial role. In this regard the country is of course competing with the United States, which is currently ahead in both fields.

Many policymakers predict that exiting the EU will enable Britain to subsidise this technology and to offer tax breaks, something that is restricted by EU rules for the common market.

In a London interview Harrington said: “It’s a very exciting thing, we want to provide the right environment for people to come to this country and invest.”

In America technology behemoths like Uber and Alphabet Inc. (Google) already have driverless car projects in place across a number of states. General Motors, whose efforts are bolstered by a $2.25 billion investment by Softbank’s Vision Fund, plan to become the first carmaker to launch a self-driving taxi service on public roads as early as next year. The Chinese government is also funding various autonomous driving projects.

Britain predicts that by 2035 the global autonomous vehicle market will be worth about £907b, and it desperate wants a share of that cake. In 2017 it reserved £250m to be allocated to firms to study autonomous driving cars in environments such as highways and city streets and to finance prototype demo projects – all before 2020.

Harrington remains unfazed. He said self-driving cars are a field “where we feel we’ve got a competitive advantage. One thing that I think I would go with for this country is the strength of the universities.”

According to one of Allen & Overy LLP’s partners, Nigel Parker, the freedom to develop its own legislative environment independently from the EU might also be beneficial.

This, he added, might end up being one of those cases where the British government sees a gap to successfully exit from the EU. He continued by saying that there were benefits in being able to make your own legislation – but there were also disadvantages to not being part of the rest of the EU.

One of the firms that has benefited from government funding is Oxbotica Ltd. The company is currently busy with a £13m project to program self-driving car fleets to operate between London and Oxford.

Its founder, Paul Newman, said that everything doesn’t happen in California. He added: “The U.K. government gets that robotics and autonomous systems is a long play. It isn’t just self driving cars, it’s all the vehicles — from mines to airports to cars to warehouses.”

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