Britain is stepping up its plans to be a leader in autonomous vehicle technology as part of its post-Brexit strategy.
The UK Government is to aware £25 million (€28.5 million) to as many as six projects that will research and test driverless vehicles on roads around the country, as well as trialling systems such as autonomous parking. It is the second competition in the government’s strategy to boost the UK’s automotive industry. Last year it announced it would allow trials of driverless cars on public roads.
Britain is going up against the US and the rest of Europe in pushing to lead the market in autonomous technology. However, some policymakers believe that leaving the European Union, which the country will do in 2019, will allow it to offer subsidies and tax breaks that are currently restricted under common market rules.
In an interview, Minister for Business and Industry Richard Harrington said: ‘It’s a very exciting thing, we want to provide the right environment for people to come to this country and invest.’
Autonomous vehicles are an area ‘where we feel we’ve got a competitive advantage,’ he added. ‘One thing that I think I would go with for this country is the strength of the universities.’
US companies Alphabet and Uber are already testing autonomous vehicles on roads, while General Motors (GM) has said it intends to be the first company to launch an autonomous taxi service to public highways. China is also investigating the technology, which it believes will help to cut down on air pollution in its congested cities.
The UK forecasts the global driverless vehicle market will be worth £907 billion (€1 trillion) by 2035 and wants it to form a crucial part of its post-Brexit landscape. With the automotive industry in the country wary of potential issues surrounding import and export tariffs should the country leave the customs union, such proposals could help to restore confidence.
Last year, the government set aside £250 million (€285 million) to be allocated before 2020 for companies to analyse self-driving vehicles in environments from city streets to highways and to fund prototype demonstration projects.
Meanwhile, the University of Salford in Manchester has unveiled new undergraduate and Master’s degrees with a ‘heavy focus’ on autonomous vehicles.
The courses are thought to be the first in Europe to train engineers for the trio of new generation technologies; electric, hybrid and driverless vehicles.
‘The rise of new vehicles over the next decade will be vast and transformational,’ explains Ghasem Nasr, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Innovation at Salford. ’New technology requires new skills and completely new perspectives on how we think about and engineer cars.’
‘There is no argument that the demand for different kinds of engineering skill sets is about to take off,’ he added. ‘The UK government has said it aims to see fully self-driving vehicles on Britain’s roads by 2021, the year our first graduates will enter the job market.’