CEO Update

Self-driving vehicles – in our own back yard

15 March 2024 #CEO Update

The transition to connected and automated mobility promises a phenomenal future. It will not just revolutionise motoring by enabling a hands-free experience but deliver unprecedented safety, economic and societal benefits – and how fast we get there depends entirely on our momentum today.

Yesterday’s SMMT Connected 2024, the UK industry’s flagship CAM event, added to that momentum with some 300 delegates from automotive, tech, government and policy gathering to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead – for vehicle manufacturers but also lawmakers and regulators, artificial intelligence and infrastructure providers, consumers and the economy. Speakers representing that broad ecosystem shared their insight and, given the critical role of government, it was important the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Mark Harper MP also made clear his support for CAM – as a benefit not just to road safety but to public transport reliability, a booming UK economy, and the provision of independent mobility to people without such advantages, for example those with sight conditions and physical disabilities.

Government and industry, having jointly invested more than £600 million in self-driving vehicle trials since 2015, have given the UK firm foundations to make the CAM transition a success. Advanced driver assistance technologies are already helping UK roads be amongst the world’s safest but now we must see innovation accelerate, new business cases made, partnerships formed and capacity expanded. From now until 2040, the reward is potentially huge, reducing the risk of human error to save 3,200 lives, preventing 53,000 serious accidents, and adding a massive £38 billion to the economy.

Underpinning it all is the right regulatory framework, and the auto sector is now urging swift parliamentary approval of the Automated Vehicles Bill, on which industry is ready to deliver. As things stand, British consumers may well begrudge other nations with more advanced regulation and who are currently benefitting from UK-developed self-driving tech which can’t be rolled out here. At the same time, hesitant policymaking also risks leaving Britain’s longer term CAM transition in the slow lane as countries round the world steal a march, boosting their innovation and jeopardising UK competitiveness.

CAM’s many advantages leave few reasons to delay. Just as society, the economy and environment now enjoy the benefits of a green transition, we must also ensure connected and automated vehicles are not forever on the horizon.

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