The government wants to see fully self-driving cars on the road by 2021

In the Autumn Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged £200m investment in electric vehicles to prepare the UK for autonomous cars. This will be matched by £400m in the private sector.

Hammond also promised £100m to guarantee continuation of the Plug-In Car Grant to 2020, which helps drivers to purchase new batteries for electric cars.

In a tech-focused budget, Hammond has also pledged £5m for a trial to test 5G deployment on roads and test how the UK can make the most of autonomous vehicles.

“This budget is about much more than Brexit,” Hammond told MPs. “We are on the edge of a technological revolution.”

There will be changes to the current regulatory framework, such as allowing driverless vehicles to be tested without a human safety operator. The government hopes that this will enable the UK to be at the forefront of driverless car technology.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) will also offer an innovation prize to tackle how future roadbuilding will support self-driving cars.

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, which has been drawn up with input from insurers, is expected to pass in 2018. According to Clyde & Co, the Bill maintains a single insurer model. An insurer will cover both the driver’s use of the vehicle and the vehicle’s technology. They will have a right of recovery from the manufacturer where there is a fault.

The bill may changed to limit the definition to fully autonomous vehicles that do not require any driver input, as Clyde & Co suggests. Otherwise, there is a risk that drivers may place themselves in danger by relying too much on non-autonomous vehicles. Footage has shown early adopters of cars with limited autonomy reading books and even playing games behind the wheel.

“In order for a fully workable insurance system for autonomous vehicles to be implemented, a clear definition of autonomous vehicle is needed. This Bill will give us a  workable definition, although there are fears it may be too broad,” said Clyde & Co partner Mark Hemsted.  

AXA technical director David Williams, who is chair of the Automated Driving Insurer Group, welcomed the move towards autonomy, commenting: “A concerted effort to turn the UK into a world leader in autonomous vehicle technology, which forms a key part of the Chancellor’s pledge to bolster UK technology more broadly, is absolutely the right thing to do – as is clarifying regulations around how driverless cars can be road tested. The UK is at the forefront of a transport revolution that will save lives and offer mobility solutions to those unable to drive. Strangely, a Budget pledge which didn’t make the Chancellor’s speech may be one of the most important for the future of British manufacturing and the economy.”