Is the UK Leading the World to a Driverless Future?

According to some UK media outlets, the UK is in ‘pole position’ and already leading the world to a driverless future. Multiple headlines over recent months have promised autonomous vehicles will be on our roads by the end of this year, or maybe by 2021; it depends on which papers and websites you follow.

Driverless car investment and testing

Certainly, the UK government has been investing in the technology needed for autonomous vehicles. A grant of £8.6 million was given by Innovate UK to a consortium led by Oxbotica – an autonomous car developer – to run trials of their vehicle in the UK late last year. So the political will is certainly there.

Driverless car testing is also taking place around the UK, from London, Hounslow, to the streets of Oxford and Milton Keynes, driverless cars are being put to the test both with and without humans behind the wheel.

Image courtesy of John Cameron via

Driverless car development

However, it’s not just the political will that’s needed to make autonomous vehicles a reality on our roads.  The development of reliable, robust and affordable technology to enable autonomous vehicles to work safely is also needed, along with the necessary infrastructure, and consumer acceptance.

Several automotive and technology companies are racing to get their driverless cars on the roads before the competition and there’s big money at stake for the winners. The autonomous vehicle market is expected to grow from $54.23 billion this year to $556.67 billion in 2026, according to Allied Market Research.

Mercedes-Benz carmaker Daimler has teamed up with BMW and recently announced a goal to unveil driverless robot taxis early next decade. They’ve secured licences to test their self-driving cars on public roads in Germany, China and the USA too; making them the first foreign company to gain such permissions in China.

Volvo has already developed level 2+ driverless vehicles using Nvidia’s Drive AGX Xavier computer to power their system. These are expected to go into mass production early next year. Nvidia, Continental, Oxbotica, Addison Lee and a number of other companies are also working on their own driverless car technology.

An independent review of driverless cars in the UK

While our government and media might tout the UK as leading the pack in terms of a driverless future; one study, looking into the four key areas needed to make this possible disagreed.

After ranking countries for government support and oversight, excellent motorway infrastructure, large-scale innovation and general consumer acceptance, the UK wasn’t anywhere near the top. In fact, out of the 20 countries reviewed, the UK came a middling 10th with The Netherlands, Singapore and Japan winning the top three spots.

Given the various elements needed to put the UK in pole position to lead the world to a driverless future, it would seem there’s a lot more work that needs doing.

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