Driverless cars, also known as or autonomous vehicles, stood out on Tuesday as a key point of focus in the Autumn Budget. One of only a few specific technologies mentioned in the budget — along with Artificial Intelligence (AI), ultra-low emission vehicles, 5G communications and FinTech — the government has promised to invest in new regulatory frameworks that will help get driverless cars on the road more quickly by 2021.
Additionally, the government promised another boost to the UK car industry with investment in the infrastructure required to support wider adoption of electric vehicles. The new £400m Charging Investment Infrastructure Fund will support this initiative. And, the government’s promise to increase its procurement of electric vehicle to 25 per cent of central government fleets by 2022 offers further support for the industry.
On the consumer side, the budget provides £100m for the continuation of the Plug-In Car Grant to 2020.
This is good news for UK automakers. In particular, it is good news for Nissan, a company that is already developing and testing autonomous vehicles in the UK. They also produce one of the top-selling electric vehicles on the UK market.
Responding to the budget, Nissan GB managing director Alex Smith said:
Today’s statement is a clear sign that the UK is fully committed to embracing the potential of autonomous cars. As a technology still in its formative years, cross-sector support is invaluable. Nissan welcomes this announcement as we accelerate the development and deployment of autonomous cars, which are destined to play a significant role in the future of the automotive industry.
The specificity of promises regarding driverless cars and electric vehicles in the Autumn Budget 2017 signal what to look for in the soon-to-be-released Industrial Strategy. They also echo the specific requests that Nissan made of the government last year when representatives of the company stated what the UK could do to ensure that Nissan remained in Sunderland after Brexit.