The UK must prioritise developing a clear strategy to maintain and enhance its position as one of the most advanced markets in the world for autonomous vehicles (AV), according to research from KPMG.
The company's Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index (AVRI) ranks the UK in fifth position according to a methodology that examines where countries are in terms of progress and capacity for adopting AV technology.
The Netherlands, Singapore and the United States head the rankings but the UK’s is ahead of countries such as Germany, China and Japan.
Sarah Owen-Vandersluis, head of transport strategy at KPMG UK, said: “The UK has shown a proactive response to the growing prominence of artificial intelligence across all industries and built a market which is conducive to accommodating the implementation of autonomics vehicles.
"Our research shows high levels of consumer acceptance, which reflects the UK’s position as an early adopter of technology.
"Nevertheless, to build on this we need a clear national strategy for the AV market.
“The Government has made great progress in recent years, but there is still more to be done.
"So far, we haven’t established what a driverless automotive system would mean for public transport and freight, nor is there a clear plan on the rollout of essential elements like charge points.
"For AVs to become a mainstream form of transport in the UK, measures to change the makeup of our infrastructure are necessary.”
Under the KPMG ranking criteria, the UK scores highly for research and development, availability of technology and capacity for innovation.
Consumer acceptance is also high, and policy and legislation are rated as more conducive to AV innovation than in other leading nations.
The UK Government has taken a number of steps to boost autonomous vehicle development in recent year.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has targeted a mature autonomous vehicle market by 2021 and committed more support for electric vehicles, including a new £400 million charging infrastructure fund, in last year's Budget.
The Department for Transport has also determined that it is legal for driverless cars to operate on any public roads without permits or extra insurance.
The UK is not part of the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which states that a driver should always be fully in control and responsible for the behaviour of a vehicle in traffic.
However, KPMG said that the UK needs a more defined national strategy to enable it to build on its strong position in the autonomous vehicle market, including improved infrastructure. The UK currently has the lowest score in the methodology for 4G coverage.
Richard Threlfall, global head of infrastructure at KPMG, added : “Planning today for an AV future is essential – it is not a question of if, but when AVs become the dominant mode of transport.
"Embracing partnerships between government and the private sector can speed technology development, while helping ensure that application of AVs meet public policy objectives.
"Finally, it is important to engage all stakeholders – government, business, citizens – in planning for AVs. It’s not just about transportation; we need to be prepared for the impact of AVs on all aspects of our lives.”