(Autonomously) Driving the UK’s Automotive Advantage

February 2016

According to a March 2015 report by KPMG, written in conjunction with The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders, entitled “Connected and Autonomous Vehicles – the UK Economic Opportunity”, the development of connected and autonomous vehicles (‘’C&A vehicles’’) ‘’will provide huge social, industrial and economic benefits to the UK’’. This is estimated by KPMG to be a prize worth £51 billion per year by 2030. These benefits include improved safety, reduced congestion and environmental efficiency, increased productivity and job creation, as well as greater mobility for all.

In order to reap those benefits, the automotive industry in the UK must lead the way in the technological development of C&A vehicles (which is already happening), through collaboration across a wide range of industries and stakeholders, including involvement of Government and Government Agencies such as Innovate UK.

The UK has the advantage of having not ratified the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic 1968 (which precludes the use of driverless vehicles), such that testing of C&A vehicles can take place on UK roads without new primary legislation needing to be passed. Many other countries have legislative barriers to such testing taking place, which are in the process of being addressed. But it will take time for them to remove those barriers and catch up. And this is why the UK is presently leveraging this “test bed” unique selling point, with four cities (Bristol, Coventry, Milton Keynes and Greenwich, London) approved and leading the way in trialling a range of autonomous automotive technologies.

However, the regulatory framework in the UK must undoubtedly be updated to support such technological developments and to ensure that there are no legislative barriers to future progress in the field of C&A vehicles. The Department for Transport’s report entitled: "The Pathway to Driverless Cars: A detailed review of regulations for automated vehicle technologies’’ of February 2015 (the “Department for Transport Review”), highlights a number of clear action points, the implementation of which would greatly assist the growth of the autonomous vehicle industry here in the UK. The key action points require fast implementation to ensure that UK legislation remains fit for purpose and ahead of the curve or, at the very least, in tune with such technological advances.