UK leads the race for Autonomous Vehicles

15 May 2019

The United Kingdom has always been a beacon of ingenuity and innovation when it comes to research and technology throughout the centuries. Science and technology in the United Kingdom has a long and proud history having produced many important figures and developments in the field. Major theorists from Isaac Newton whose laws of motion and illumination of gravity have been seen as a keystone of modern science and Charles Darwin whose theory of evolution by natural selection was fundamental to the development of modern biology. Other major engineering projects and applications pursued by people from the United Kingdom include the steam locomotive developed by the pair of Richard Trevithick and Andrew Vivian, the Jet engine by Frank Whittle and the of course the internet (or the World Wide Web if you wish), by Tim-Berners Lee. The United Kingdom continues to play a major role in the development of science and technology and major technological sectors include the aerospace, motor and pharmaceutical industries.

Over the last year, the performance of the United Kingdom’s digital tech sector has been world-leading, with British firms attracting more capital than any other European country according to a recent Tech Nation and it could not be any different when it comes to Autonomous Vehicles and the automotive industry. Now a new report from Frost & Sullivan on the current global state of CAV (connected and autonomous vehicles) has revealed that the UK has the greatest mass-market potential for the technology globally. Considering there has already been over half a billion pounds invested by technology companies and the UK government into CAV R&D and testing the report concludes that continued investment could ultimately translate into a £62 billion annual economic opportunity for the country by 2030 and help to prevent 47,000 serious accidents over the next decade

In his 2018 budget, Chancellor Phillip Hammond stated that we could we see autonomous vehicles on British roads by 2021 and the above might have seem like a very bold statement at the time but it most certainly resonates with most technologists and engineers who understand and work in the industry.

Factors affecting Growth

However, considering all the above it is also important to note the many inhibiting factors. Other than the well known fact that roads and infrastructure in London is of course much different to California or american roadways, Brexit is another significant roadblock that is already hampering the UK’s CAV development. A number of car manufacturers have already closed (or are going to be closing) their British based factories and the ongoing uncertainty around the terms of the UK’s withdrawal have left many automotive companies wondering whether Britain is really the place to nvest in its current state. In addition, the British government needs to “step-up” its game and implement/adopt new legislation for autonomous vehicles that will lead the way and ease the path to testing.

Jaguar Land Rover has estimated that fully autonomous vehicles will require one billion lines of code in order to be fully operational which is indeed a tremendous task considering the Tech market in the UK is already under-employed (rather than under-funded as most are). This does mean that the opportunity and potential is there however, the many mitigating factors mentioned above could stagnate the progress of CAV in the UK in the near future. It all really comes down to not only investment but mainly a change of mindset and being able to supply the

The future of connected and autonomous vehicles in Britain

Although Europe is lagging behind its international peers in this sector, there are a number of companies across the UK that are pushing ahead with autonomous vehicle projects

When it comes to Autonomous vehicles and as we have already published in a previous blog, the UK plays a leading role in the development, testing and overall exploring of autonomous technologies. Further to autonomous robots and other mini shuttles being tested in Manchester, Oxbotica – a start-up spun-out of Oxford University – also announced recently its plans to deploy self-driving vehicles in London.

The plan is that self-driving vehicles will begin operating on London’s streets from 2021 through Oxbotica and Taxi giant Addison Lee. Some of the services being discussed as part of the innovative project are shared minibus shuttles for the capital’s commuters, although the groups have yet to reach a conclusive agreement as to the mixture of their services and offerings.

Governments and local councils worldwide are in a  race to implement and adopt rules that will allow self-driving vehicles to roam freely, with the UK bringing in plans that will see autonomous cars allowed to operate by 2021, the earliest than any other country so far. 

Despite the many variables involved with the right initiative taken from the government, continued investment and Brexit stabilisation, the UK can once again become a leader in an indystry it has always excelled in. 

Article by Nicholas Kalavas for Y-Mobility

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