Developers of self-driving cars are calling on the UK Government to press ahead and deliver regulation on autonomous vehicles.
“We need to make sure that we cut through the noise and that the government hears the message loud and clear,” Sarah Gates – head of public policy at autonomous vehicle (AV) technology developer Wayve – told City A.M.
AV regulation was initially announced by Boris Johnson’s government during the Queen’s Speech in May but was postponed following this summer’s change in leadership.
Under Liz Truss’s premiership the transport bill, and therefore AV regulation, was pushed at the bottom of the government’s agenda as more pressing matters – including rocketing inflation and the energy crisis – took over.
A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesperson told City A.M. the current government remains committed to bringing the legislation forward.
“We want the UK to be at the forefront of developing and using self-driving vehicles, especially as they are expected to make our roads safer by reducing the dangers of driver error in road collisions,” they said.
It’s still unclear when that will happen.
Gates said she was “cautiously optimistic” about the legislation being discussed soon as it doesn’t require capital investment.
“It requires parliamentary time and [that] to the current government agenda is quite appealing because we don’t have a lot of money,” she added.
According to Gates, the UK could lag significantly behind rivals such as the EU or US if the government doesn’t move with legislation this year.
The bloc passed a law on automated driving systems for small series cars this summer, with plans to extend it in 2024, while in 2020 the US Department of Transportation issued its updated regulatory framework.
“If we miss this opportunity, any short delay will actually end up in a much larger lag in the overall development,” the head of policy explained.
Gates’ words echoed those of David Wong, senior technology and innovation manager at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
“It’s important that we pursue regulatory reforms at pace to ensure that we keep up with other jurisdictions,” he told a transport select committee’s hearing in late October.
Government predictions reported that the AV market will be worth £41.7bn and deliver 40,000 jobs by 2035.