Automated technology, such as self-driving vehicles, has the potential to unlock a whole new era of possibilities for British businesses, creating real green economic growth. If enabled, it would level up every corner of the UK, improve productivity, create highly skilled jobs, reduce emissions, and bring significant economic rewards by attracting substantial inward investment.
Self-driving vehicles will be life-changing; a huge transport revolution and the biggest overhaul since the invention of the modern-day car. The way people move around and interact with their communities, as well as the distribution of goods and freight will radically change, bringing greater mobility in a cleaner, greener and safer way.
The UK has a unique opportunity to be a global leader in the development of self-driving vehicles, and as MP for Milton Keynes North, I am proud to say our great town is leading the way. In recent times, we have emerged as a principal hub for testing and trialling many transport innovations, from automated vehicles to e-scooters.
Robots roaming our town is now a common site sight for my constituents, bringing zero emissions food deliveries directly to their doors. We have also seen the trial of FETCH which provides a self-driving taxi to take people to their destination, with the same convenience as Uber and Bolt, but with the ability to cover greater distances at less than half the cost. On top of that, we have had the UK’s largest self-driving car project, Autodrive, culminating in the longest autonomous journey in Britain from Milton Keynes to Sunderland.
By seeing this technology in action, we are starting to see the wide-ranging societal benefits this technology will provide. It will truly transform many people’s lives. For example, a visually impaired person who can’t drive or navigate public transport easily will be able to stay connected to their friends, family and place of work or education via a self-driving mobility service.
Self-driving vehicles could bring undreamt-of freedom to those whose disabilities mean they can’t get behind the wheel. This technology will enable people to become more independent, improve their quality of life, and achieve their full potential.
As well as giving new opportunities to those with mobility challenges, automation would improve safety for all road users. The latest research from the Department of Transport shows that 88 per cent of road accidents are caused by human error. There is huge potential for saving lives, reducing injuries, and damage to vehicles by replacing driver responsibility with smart technology.
The industry also has the potential to unleash huge green economic growth, with the global market thought to be worth £650 billion by 2035. Of this, the UK alone has the potential to unlock as much as £41.7 billion, creating 49,000 highly skilled green jobs across all corners of the UK by 2035, particularly in manufacturing hotbeds.
Self-driving vehicles also mean goods, like our everyday groceries, can be moved around the country more efficiently and safely, supporting the green transition of the last-mile delivery market which could unleash a further £44 billion by 2025. By fully embracing this technology, a new sector could create a new realm of opportunities in every part of our nation.
While the concept of driverless vehicles still seems futuristic, elements of this technology are already here. Thanks to the Government jointly investing over £440 million, this country could become one of the best and most open places in the world to test self-driving technology.
Embarking on the next stage of this venture, we must incentivise further development of this technology and put safety first, which is why we need legislation to deliver a regulated framework to allow this technology to expand safely across the UK.
This year’s Law Commission proposals for automotive vehicle regulation were warmly welcomed across the industry. AXA UK, and the Connected Automated Mobility All Party Parliamentary Group, have been leading the way to share invaluable insights from the industry and ensure the UK has the potential to be the largest growth market for SMEs developing this technology.
The Government now has an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to levelling up, boosting green growth, and creating high skilled jobs, by including automated technology in the Queen’s Speech. This would further cement the UK’s position as a world leader in the development of self-driving vehicles and see the UK at the heart of technical evolution and at the centre of innovation.
This is a critical year in the development of this technology, as we see more examples of self-driving vehicles moving closer to deployment. As such, now is the time to act and build momentum to enable a more connected and greener Britain.