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Self-driving vehicle report suggests widespread use within 15 years

Self-driving technology will be present in 40% of all new UK car sales by 2035, with a total market value of £41.7 billion, a new report suggests.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) today, transport minister Rachel Maclean is due to unveil a report, conducted by researchers at the Connected Places Catapult, Element Energy and Cambridge Econometrics.

The report forecasts that in 2035, two in five of all new UK car sales could have self-driving capabilities. This could in turn create nearly 40,000 skilled jobs in the CAV technology area, it says.

Maclean claims that the investment in and development of CAVs could “transform the way people and goods are transported”.

“We’re on the cusp of a driving revolution,” she said. “Not only could this tech unlock vast opportunities for the UK economy and jobs market, it could significantly improve the safety and efficiency of how we travel over the coming decades.”

The Government has invested £200 million into CAV research and development (R&D), helping British start-ups develop their tech for use both in the UK and internationally.

Together with industry, this investment has led to many successes, it says. UK start-ups that have received government R&D support, including Five and Oxbotica, have gone on to successfully raise tens of millions of dollars in private investment, competing internationally with some of the world’s largest self-driving vehicle companies.

In 2020, Oxbotica launched Project Endeavour, which will be running highly automated trials in Oxford, London and Birmingham.    

The project will demonstrate automated driving in a variety of urban and city environments and will develop models with local authorities and communities to help them prepare for the future launch of automated vehicle services.

Several Government-backed CAV trials have also successfully demonstrated world-leading capabilities in recent years, such as the Streetwise project in London in 2019, which saw self-driving vehicles carrying commuters to and from work.

The ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to deploy CAVs is also being realised through work to update UK law and regulations to make sure that the technology can be safely used on UK roads.

In August 2020, Government announced a consultation to enable the use of Automated Lane Keeping Systems – an early form of automation in vehicles – on UK roads as early as this year. The response to this consultation is set to be published in early 2021.

Lord Grimstone, minister for investment at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, said: “Self-driving vehicles represent a huge economic opportunity for the UK, unlocking much-needed jobs and economic growth.

“Government is backing business to realise this – driving forward the future of the UK’s automotive and technology sectors and helping us build back better.”

Nicola Yates, CEO of Connected Places Catapult, believes that CAV technologies have the potential to revolutionise transport.

“Designed in the right way, a system of connected autonomous vehicles could make our transport network more accessible, safer, more efficient and better for the environment,” she said.

“Connected Places Catapult has been pleased to partner with stakeholders across government, industry and academia over several years to make sure that the UK is one of the best places in the world for CAV development.

“This new report, developed in partnership with Element Energy and Cambridge Econometrics, shines a light on the economic opportunities for a UK CAV industry.”

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