UK Economy Best Placed to Profit from Autonomous Vehicles
The UK has been found to be the nation best placed to take advantage of the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles revolution.
A report published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders that considers a range of factors, says the UK could reap billions if it takes decisive action quickly. There are, as ever, a few hurdles to overcome.
If the UK can capitalise on its advanced position it stands to benefit from a huge boost to its economy, estimated to be in the region of £60b over the next 10 years.
This windfall would be generated primarily by consumer related impacts, i.e. things that directly impact you and your daily life.
A large reduction in travel times, particularly to and from work, would benefit the majority of the country. An estimated 42 hours could be slashed from annual commuting times – a full working week for many people.
The generation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs in CAV related industries is a huge prize for any economy, with many in the automotive industry also predicted to be highly skilled positions.
Additionally the CAV roll out could save 3,900 lives and prevent 47,000 accidents over the same time period, sparing us all the tragedy that comes with so much loss. Safer roads would also reduce the burden on healthcare services and likely see a reduction in insurance costs and vehicle repairs.
Overall, an effective CAV network would make a significant difference to people’s quality of life.
The criteria for scoring countries on their suitability for CAV networks and their progress towards achieving them is covered by three main areas. These areas cover how easy it is to physically create the infrastructure needed, how the laws and regulations of the country work, and how receptive the population is to using them.
- Road Traffic Laws
- Civil Liability
- General Regulation
- 4G Speed (mbps)
- Share of AV Miles
- 4G Coverage
- 5G Pilots/tests
- Advanced Driving-assistance Systems Uptake
- Connected Car Uptake
- Demand Responsive Transport Fleet
- Mobility as a Service Uptake
The UK’s best performing category, perhaps unsurprisingly, is market attractiveness – beating everybody with a score of 3.3/3.5, above the US in second on 3.
The UK is receptive to new technologies and ideas and has already bought heavily into cars equipped with self-driving technology and concepts like Uber. This is highlighted by maximum scores in both Demand Responsive Transport fleet size and Mobility as a Service uptake.
The UK also performed the best in Enabling Regulations, with praise for its forward-thinking legislation. The UK was responsible for the world’s first insurance legislation, covering Autonomous Vehicles in 2018 and is already implementing traffic data gathering systems.
The worst performing category, again perhaps unsurprisingly, is in infrastructure. The UK compares poorly on most criteria which cover 4G coverage, network speeds, and 5G testing prior to implementation.
As an example, 5G is soon being launched and the UK still only has 77% 4G coverage. In comparison the US covers 90% - despite being 40 times the size of the UK, with vast areas containing few, if any, inhabitants.
The one criterion the UK did score very well in the infrastructure category, was the number of road miles suitable for Autonomous Vehicles. As many as 1 in 5 miles of UK roads are suitable, increasing potential demand, and making any investment in CAV infrastructure very efficient.
Only the US, with its miles of highways and city grid system, and Japan with a similar road density to the UK, can come close - with 1 in 8 and 1 in 7 miles respectively. Other European nations only have as many as 1 in 10 miles, and the most technologically advanced nation on earth - South Korea – only has 1 in 20.
Despite performing well, the UK’s position at the top is by no means solid. The world is racing towards this new horizon and the situation is in constant flux. If the UK wants to realise its ambitions as a world leader in CAVs, it cannot rest on its laurels and must continue to make progress.
The report recommends four areas for development to stay on course for being a CAV network leader:
1 Amend Current Road Traffic Laws
Despite its advanced legislation covering insurance liability, road traffic laws will need updating to accommodate CAVs.
2 Improve Road Coverage of 4G Across Entire Network
The current level of road coverage at 54% is far below where it needs to be. A key component of CAVs is their ability to communicate. Wireless networks are critical to any CAV network.
3 Enable Safe Deployment of Urban Mobility Services
Urban areas will see the most benefit from CAV services, and their implementation should be encouraged by working with local authorities.
4 Expedite International Harmonisations of Regulations
Aligning laws and regulations across nations makes the implementation of new technologies easier. The UK has already stated it will continue to follow EU regulations in future and should continue to do so.
Obstacle to Success
It won’t come as a shock to hear the potential spanner in the works to all of this is Brexit. Any obstacles to trade and additional legislation instantly make the UK less appealing to investment from the companies developing these technologies.
Leaving without a deal would also certainly have a hugely negative impact on currency too. As the UK doesn’t own or manufacture most of the technology needed to implement CAV networks, it would have to be imported.
A drop in the value of the pound would simultaneously damage any profit potential for firms looking to invest and hamper the ability of the nation to purchase the necessary materials as prices increase.
For the UK to make the most of its lead, Brexit must be dealt with well enough to not damage its investment potential and keep itself and as an attractive, profit yielding market.
Other nations are almost certainly keen to better their prospects. If they plan on moving ahead in the race to capitalise on this emerging industry, they will be keeping a close eye on developments elsewhere.