The UK risks missing out on the benefits of driverless cars without government action

Mark Sands
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The UK must establish a cross-government strategy for the robot cars, peers said. (Source: Getty)

The economic gains from driverless cars could bypass the UK entirely without rapid ministerial action, a House of Lords committee has warned.

The UK has sought to be at the forefront of trials for autonomous vehicles, but peers have today said ministers must engage in a more cross-governmental approach.

The House of Lords science and technology committee warned that too much focus is being directed towards road vehicles, without consideration for potential applications in farming, for example.

And they add “there is no clear central coordination” of government strategy or information sharing.

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Among other measures, they propose establishing a Robotics and Autonomous Systems Leadership Council to lead government strategy for driverless vehicles.

The committee also recommends more work to improve the UK's mobile networks to boost connected, rather than self-driving, cars.

Committee chair Lord Selbourne said: “Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) is a fast-moving area of technology and the government has much to do, alongside industry and other partners, to position the UK so that it can take full advantage of the opportunities that CAV offer in different sectors.

He added: “Long-term developments in CAV have the potential to bring about transformational change to society but these changes will only take place if society is willing to both pay for and to adapt its behaviour to fit the technology.”

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The peers also note that carmakers should retain their lead role in R&D for vehicles themselves, limiting government investment.

However, they add that ministers should direct funding towards scientific research and technology underpinning the vehicles.

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