The Queen has outlined the Government’s plans for driverless vehicle spending in the forthcoming year.
At the very beginning of today’s Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty said, “To support the economic recovery and create jobs… legislation will be introduced to ensure Britain has the infrastructure that businesses need to grow.
“Legislation will be introduced to improve Britain’s competitiveness and make the United Kingdom a world leader in the digital economy.
“My ministers will ensure that the United Kingdom is at the forefront of technology and new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles.”
The Queen also mentioned measures to allow every household to access to high speed internet and that, “to spread economic prosperity will continue to support the development of a Northern Powerhouse.”
“We welcome the government’s commitment to promoting autonomous and electric vehicles,” said Paul McCormick, Managing Director –Transportation, UK & Ireland and Continental Europe, at AECOM. “A genuinely inclusive approach is vital if the UK is to benefit fully from this rapidly emerging technology. With many competing priorities for the UK’s finite pool of skilled engineers, companies both large and small must have equally compelling incentives to participate.
He added: “The government must also consider the international picture, where the UK risks falling behind other EU member states in the development of connected vehicle infrastructure. For example, consideration needs to be given to how the current Roads Investment Programme should be adapted so that new routes and Smart Motorways can be made ready for both driverless and connected vehicles.
“Along with the technology and its application, resolving the non-technological issues is also important in order for driverless and connected vehicles to operate effectively across borders. This includes operation and standardisation, as well as legislation, insurance and liability issues.
“A well targeted and coordinated programme of investment and procurement will enable the UK to reap the economic benefits of tomorrow’s smarter vehicles,” McCormick concluded.
The idea isn’t being universally welcomed, though. In his widely-read column in the Daily Mail, commentator Richard Littlejohn ridiculed the Government’s plans saying it is “pie in the sky policies of a Prime Minister paralysed by Brexit.”
“Look, I’m no Luddite and cheerfully embrace new technology if it makes my life easier”, he wrote. “But we’ve been promised this brave new world for as long as I can remember. Fifty years ago, Dan Dare comics painted a shiny vision of futuristic cities complete with flying saucers and driverless cars.
“As for driverless cars, they’re great in principle. Who wouldn’t like to be collected at their front door and chauffeured remotely to work in a whisper-quiet limousine, guided with precision by orbiting satellites communicating with an app on the dashboard? You could even have a few drinks on the way home without fear of getting breathalysed.
“That’s the theory, anyway. But do you trust a driverless satnav system to get you safely from A to B? How many times have we read about cars being driven into rivers and up blind alleys because their drivers believed the directions on their TomToms? It is reported that roads will be dug up to install drive-by-wire systems under the surface. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s just what Britain needs right now: more roadworks. Might it not be a better idea to fill in all the gaping potholes first and rip out some of the superfluous traffic lights and infuriating cycle lanes which have been installed at exorbitant expense by car-hating councils?”
(Picture – a Venturer test driverless vehicle in Bristol)