Self driving cars are expected to enter the market and become a fixture on UK roads within four years, the Transport Secretary has said this week.
Chris Grayling told a conference organised by the Association of British Insurers that the first autonomous cars would be available by 2021, adding that the market for these vehicles could be worth £28Bn to the UK by 2035.
“We’ve seen nothing in our lifetimes that can compare with the motoring revolution that’s just around the corner,” he said.
“Future generations will see 20th century motoring with a driver at the wheel controlling a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine as merely a quaint stepping stone on the journey to cleaner, fully autonomous and more efficient road transport.”
The timescale set out by the Transport Secretary matches the ambitions of leading manufacturers including Nissan and Volvo, which have both announced autonomous vehicle testing programmes in the UK.
TRL’s head of connected and autonomous vehicle research and deployment Simon Tong also agreed that 2021 is a realistic target and said that driverless pods and other footway going vehicles could be ready even sooner – within one or two years.
“The pace of change in the development of technology in this field is really rapid,” he said, adding that the new Automated & Electric Vehicles Bill going through Parliament will look to solve some of the challenges around insurance and regulation.
But despite his optimism Simon urged: “For driverless cars to be integrated into the transport network they are going to have to be connected at the same time, so we must not forget the ‘connected’ part of ‘connected and autonomous vehicles’. They need to be considered together and developed at the same pace.”
Chris Grayling also announced the creation of a new compulsory insurance framework covering motorists who have handed control of their vehicle to an autonomous driving system.
“This will ensure that victims have quick and easy access to compensation and that insurers can recover costs from the liable party, which in the majority of cases is anticipated to be the manufacturer,” he said.
Insurance firm AXA UK’s head of underwriting David Williams commented: “A simple and comprehensive insurance solution is a crucial milestone in making autonomous vehicles on our roads a reality. The emerging insurance framework will act as an enabler of a technology that has the potential to make our roads much safer.”