Philip Hammond set to unveil regulatory revamp for driverless cars along with millions for AI and digital skills in Autumn Budget

Rebecca Smith
Driverless car reforms are expected to be among the Budget announcements
Driverless car reforms are expected to be among the Budget announcements (Source: Getty)

The chancellor is expected to unveil a flurry of announcements to progress artificial intelligence, driverless and electric cars, and 5G across Britain in next week's Autumn Budget, to help bolster the nation's credentials as a leader in tech.

Philip Hammond is poised to announce £75m for AI, £400m for electric car charge points, £160m for 5G technology, and reforms to progress on-road testing to get driverless cards on UK roads by 2021.

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In order to make the path to success as smooth as possible, the government is expected to unveil a regulatory revamp that will mean developers can apply to test their vehicles on Britain's roads without a human operator for the first time.

The chancellor looks to be focusing on investment in transformational technologies, set to hit the mainstream in the coming years.

The driverless car industry is expected to be worth £28bn to the UK economy by 2035, supporting 27,000 jobs.

Elsewhere, an obstacle to faster take-up of electric cars has been the lack of infrastructure in place to soothe drivers' concerns over range anxiety. Hammond is expected to focus on boosting the deployment of charging infrastructure with a £400m investment fund to improve access to finance for businesses to roll out charge points across the country.

The chancellor is also expected to line up £160m for superfast 5G mobile networks across the UK, to progress projects in both rural and urban areas, as well as £76m to improve digital and construction skills.

Such skills have been identified as crucial for making the most of the job opportunities expected to emerge from the new economy. The chancellor has an eye on bolstering the numbers of computer science teachers, as well as creating a national centre for computing to equip the next generation with the necessary skills.

The Royal Society's president Venki Ramakrishnan said: "The government has clearly recognised the fragile state of computing education in this country and how important having the right digital skills will be for the workforce of the future. This significant investment in support for teachers can be a key to unlocking the productivity of the next generation."

Also on the skills front is the expected establishment of a new partnership with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Trades Union Congress to oversee the national retraining scheme, helping adults to retrain and get the fresh skills they need.

To start, £36m will be invested in digital skills courses using AI so that people can benefit from this emerging technology as they train for digital tech jobs.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, said:

Skills are vital to competing globally, and seizing the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution. This is the best way to drive the productivity the UK needs to increase pay.

The CBI looks forward to working alongside the government and the TUC to build an approach that works for the long-term. It is the training decisions that take place every day in businesses across the country that will make a difference – so a genuine partnership is needed to get the system delivering effectively for businesses and employees.

Alan Mak MP, who chairs the all party parliamentary group on entrepreneurship, has previously called for the government to include a commitment to the fourth industrial revolution.

He said Brexit could bring an opportunity to introduce an "innovation principle" enabling the country to lead the way in the fields of AI and robotics.

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