Budget 2017 UK: Philip Hammond gives more cash for electric cars, AI, 5G and tech innovation and plans driverless car rules

Lynsey Barber
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Go Ultra Low Electric Vehicle on charge on a London street
The government is encouraging take up of electric vehicles (Source: Getty)

Fresh cash has been promised to boost the uptake of electric cars on Britain's roads and to develop new regulation for driverless cars.

There will be £400m for charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and another £140m for other projects related to them, chancellor Philip Hammond has said in his Autumn Budget.

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He suggested that the future will be driverless but "electric first".

Hammond also revealed that charging an electric car at work will not be subject to a benefit in kind tax.

The government wants to create "the most advanced regulatory framework for driverless cars in the world" it said, with the ambitious goal of getting them on the road by 2021.

It's understood that the department for transport will seek power through an amendment to the road traffic act. That would give it the ability to give the go-ahead to manufacturers wanting to test fully-autonomous cars on the road without a human at the wheel, on an individual case-by-case basis and subject to stringent safety checks.

There are currently no specific rules when it comes to driverless cars on the road, for example there is no central register of those testing the technology, but they must comply with existing laws and there is a code of practice.

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There will also be a focus on what needs to happen to the nation's networks of roads to support this new technology, such as road design and traffic management. A competition for funding will kick off in the New Year.

National Infrastructure Commission chairman Lord Adonis said: “Once the preserve of sci-fi, the driverless car is now tantalisingly close and as companies spend billions developing these new vehicles, we need to turn our attention to the roads they appear on."

There was also promise of £500m investment in emerging technology such as 5G and artificial intelligence while an additional £2.3bn for R&D was confirmed.

Hammond also promised to get another 12,000 teachers of computer science into schools and a National Retraining Scheme. The NRS will be a joint venture between the government, industry and unions to help people adapt to the changing world of work, and will initially be focused on the construction industry.

And finally, there will be £2.5bn from the British Business Bank to support broader tech investments, with the chancellor pledging to stand in if the UK loses any funding from the European Investment Fund (EIF).

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