A commitment to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of autonomous and electric vehicle technology was included in the Queen’s speech earlier this month.
Addressing MPs and peers at the state opening of parliament, the Queen said: “My ministers will ensure the UK is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles.”
Their inclusion reaffirms that the Government believes that both autonomous and electric driving technology will shape the automotive industry in the future and that the UK can become a world leader in these areas.
The plans form part of a Modern Transport Bill, which looks set to encourage investment in driverless cars and aims to ensure insurance is available to their users.
The Government says the Bill will help cut red tape and put the right framework in place to allow innovation, which it claims will put the UK at the forefront of autonomous and driverless vehicle ownership and use.
In addition, it hopes the Bill will encourage further investment in electric cars and introduce new rules to bring safe commercial and personal drone flight for households and businesses a step closer.
Commenting on the insurance initiatives contained in the Bill, James Dalton, ABI Director of General Insurance Policy, said: “Fully automated vehicles will be a safety revolution, set to reduce road accidents and make our roads safer.
“This is why insurers are 100% behind making driverless vehicles a reality on our roads. Insurers are already working on how to shape the right framework to keep insurance as simple and straightforward as possible for the future of driving.”
Phil Harrold, automotive partner at leading accountants PwC, said the Queen’s speech reinforced the need for the UK to continue investing, both financially and logistically, in order to remain at the cutting edge of new vehicle technology – from propulsion systems to autonomous vehicles.
“However, the real road test will be persuading the general public to readily accept even more car or van autonomy, and for developers, manufacturers and the Government to robustly respond to any safety concerns consumers may have.
“Ultimately, for autonomous consumer transport modes to succeed, it’s vital that ‘perfection’ isn’t set as the default benchmark during the highway test phases or on roll-out – we don’t expect this of other drivers on the road – and that what is aimed for is a realistic and marked improvement on human fallibility levels.”
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) welcomed the news that autonomous vehicles will be insured under normal policies in the UK, but said the Government also needed to introduce legislation to improve cyber security in autonomous vehicles.
Hugh Boyes, the IET’s cyber security expert, said: “We must ensure that cyber security is carefully considered. It is not just about the threat of a car being hacked, it also relates to the overall security and safety of the vehicle’s operation.
“For that reason it will be crucial that the Government introduces proper regulations for autonomous vehicles, which should include the need for a software MOT to be performed on a regular basis. This should help to assure the ongoing trustworthiness of the vehicle software and systems.
“While we are used in our daily lives to putting up with software errors in non-safety critical situations, such as when our computers freeze and require a reboot, we cannot tolerate such behaviour in autonomous vehicles as this could put the safety of the vehicle’s passengers and those outside the vehicle at risk.”
More details on the Modern Transport Bill are expected to be released in the coming weeks.