UK firm lands world-first driverless export deal

UK firm lands world-first driverless export deal
A pioneering car firm in the West Midlands has landed the world’s first deal to export driverless cars.

Dudley-based Westfield Sports Cars has received an order from South Korea for five of its autonomous electric pods – with a view to take 195 further down the line.

Brokered in part by international trade minister Mark Garnier, the £30 million project involves UK technology which will be showcased at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

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While significant advances are being made every year in driverless technology, the motoring public are yet to be won over. An RAC Opinion Panel survey last month identified widespread scepticism over autonomous cars.

But landmark deals like this, which place the UK at the forefront of the burgeoning sector, may help to change the tide of opinion.

According to Mr Garnier, the Westfield deal answers some of the questions being posed in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU), showing the country is more than ready to strike new trading partnerships with trusted global partners.

He added: “Demand for our goods and services is clearly out there and we will continue to support businesses in making the most of global markets as we leave the EU.”

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Since 2009, UK car exports to South Korea have shot up fivefold in volume, and the Asian country has become the UK’s eighth largest export market outside of Europe.

It has now become a hotly-targeted region, as ministers look to build on strong existing trading links and new free arrangements once Brexit is complete.

The IT Convergence Institute of North Gyeongsang Province has agreed to share technologies and expertise with Westfield, in areas ranging from the development of self-driving vehicles and high-precision maps to overall safety management.

The latest agreement comes off the back of a wider deal between the two institutions struck in November last year.

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