Autonomous Vehicles: Where Does This Industry Stand in the UK Market?

Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous Vehicles

Understanding the factors that can change the course of self-driving cars in the British market.

Several nations are hoping to bring autonomous vehicles on the roads, but only a few have actually been successful. And now, with the UK set to jump the bandwagon, the self-driving cars do not seem like distant reality for it. According to a report titled “Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Winning the Global Race to Market, “published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and Frost & Sullivan, UK is already on the verge of leading the legion of nations having autonomous vehicles. As home to four major testbeds and three additional sites focused on highways, rural and parking, with more than 80 collaborative R&D projects underway, the UK is already poised to accelerate the market and industry of this sector. All these attributes shall help in boosting the British economy by £62 billion by 2030.


Entry of ALKS

Last week, the UK government announced that it is seeking industry information and consultation specifically on Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS). This initiative is crucial as it shall outline what constitutes an autonomous vehicle and who will be responsible if a car crashes while ALKS is in use, the driver, or the vehicle maker. This will also help the government in developing an understanding of how this technology works, how it can be used, and how drivers interact with it. After that, devise regulations on these autonomous vehicles will be easier for the governing body. Moreover, by regulating ALKS technology, drivers can discern between an autonomous vehicle (capable of driving itself entirely) and a vehicle that has advanced safety features.


How it all began?

The talks about this technology began in early 2019, when the Department for Transport of then ruling party, announced plans to move forward on advanced trials for automated vehicles and commitment to achieve it by 2021. The nation wants to proceed in this direction since it has witnessed an unprecedented growth in its automotive sector from 2000. Being a leading center of automotive R&D, UK wants to maintain its status as a hub of innovation excellence. So, having a fleet of connected and autonomous vehicles will provide huge social, industrial, and economic benefits to the UK. The UK gave the green light for hands-free testing of driverless cars back in 2015, but it still warrants the presence of human driver behind the wheel in case of emergency. A Code of Practice followed this move, for testing autonomous vehicles in public places, which remains in operation to date.


Impact of Brexit

Besides, if one includes Brexit in the equation, separation of the UK from the EU caused a major blow to the technology investments as it marred the reputation of the nation, portraying it as a politically unstable destination for inward investment. This means the major threat to the connected and autonomous vehicles sector is from a turbulent legal and political landscape. Despite this, the staggering investments by both government and private industries and numerous test drives at major towns and cities, like London, Birmingham, Bristol, and Milton Keynes, reinstate that UK can emerge victorious in this market and also offer huge opportunities including employment.


Skepticism of Public

Although the challenges do not end here. Several researches show that residents are still skeptical of autonomous vehicles. Following the government talks about ALKS, YouGov conducted a poll asking drivers if they would be comfortable or uncomfortable with the idea of driverless cars on British motorways.

And the results were not promising enough. Out of the 1947 adults surveyed, 36% said they would not be comfortable at all with the prospect and 33% saying they would not be ‘very comfortable.’ Only a quaint 6% said they would be ‘very comfortable,’ with 17% saying they would be ‘fairly comfortable,’ while 9% said they didn’t know. Most of the respondents are not supporters of changes in the ownership model the self-driving cars shall bring with them.

Even the motor insurance industry is warning automobile manufacturers to refrain from the use of the word “autonomous” in their marketing. The main problem is the ignorance amongst the common citizens who are not confident enough if they can trust a vehicle that ‘drives itself.’ Hence, they need to be made aware most of the autonomous vehicles are designed to be super safe and drive along cautiously. Leading companies like Tesla, Nissan can explain to their clients and audience how they are automating in the self-driving cars and what they are not.