EU vote to ‘spur on Britain’s self-driving car revolution’

EU vote to ‘spur on Britain’s self-driving car revolution’
A leading automotive trade body has said that Britain’s decision to leave the EU could mean the country will lead the development of self-driving cars.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said that Britain will now be free of European red tape, adding that the UK could be sent to the forefront of the industry as a consequence.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, said: “Britain is already perceived as an attractive test-bed for technologies; Brexit may make it more attractive.”

Many European countries have stricter privacy laws than the UK, making it difficult for car manufacturers to use internet connections as part of self-driving technology tests.

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The UK is also at an advantage over most of Europe in researching autonomous vehicles because it never ratified the Vienna Convention, which states that “every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle”.

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However, the SMMT has also warned that the EU vote could adversely affect the car manufacturing industry.

Mr Hawes pointed out that almost four out of five cars built in the UK were exported to 100 different countries, with over half going to the EU.

At the same time, around 60% of components were imported, mainly from Europe.

“The current uncertainty about what the relationship will be in the future is playing on the minds of the industry,” Mr Hawes said.

“The industry will do its best to manage the situation but there are worries. EU is our biggest market and the industry is concerned about a potential loss of influence on regulations, over which we will have no say.”

Exports drove the latest car production figures, with year-to-date demand up 14.9% to almost 700,000 vehicles, compared to a 7.1% increase in the domestic market.

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Carmakers are now most worried about the potential negative impact of tariffs or other barriers between the UK and the single market, said the SMMT.

Earlier this year the Government announced it will push forward with a Modern Transport Bill, which was ratified by the Queen in her speech earlier this year, to ensure Britain leads the way in the development of driverless car technology.

The Department for Transport has previously predicted that the development of driverless cars will play a vital role in the country's economic future and help to create new jobs.

At the moment the fledgling autonomous car market is said to be growing at 16% a year, but experts are forecasting that worldwide it could be worth nearly a trillion pounds by the middle of the 2020s.

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