Driverless Cars ‘To Add Billions’ To UK Economy

A major study into the impact of driverless cars on British roads has given the introduction of the self-driving machines a big thumbs up.

Announced by KPMG at the SMMTConnected event in London today, the report also concluded that the UK will become a key player in Europe in developing cars of future.

‘Huge benefits’

Speaking at the event, KPMG said that connected and autonomous cars will create 320,000 UK jobs and save thousands of lives over the next few years, alongside delivering “huge benefits to society and the economy”.

Indeed, the firm’s “comprehensive analysis” found that the vehicles will deliver a staggering £51 billion boost to the UK economy.

Other benefits will be a massive reduction in serious road traffic accidents, with KPMG saying that accident reduction will fall by more than 25,000 a year by 2030.

Industry change

The study also apparently looked how the automotive industry will change due to driverless cars, as well as how safety and emissions will be improved. It also considered how space would be liberated, congestion improved, and the economic productivity benefits.

Overall, the study predicted that by 2030, every new car will have some form of connectivity, while more than a quarter will be fully autonomous (i.e. completely driverless).

The automotive industry is already a vital component of the UK economy. Indeed, it accounts  for more than £64 billion turnover and £12 billion value added. The industry directly employs more than 160,000 people, but in reality 770,000 jobs across the wider automotive industry are because of the humble motor car. And it accounts for 10 percent of total UK export of goods.

So it is hardly surprising then that the greater good has lined up to have its say on the study.

“New technology is fundamental to government’s ambitious vision for our roads,” said Transport Minister Robert Goodwill. “That is why we are making huge investments to support innovation, including £19 million for real-world trials of driverless cars and £100 million to research autonomous vehicles, as recently announced in the Budget. Connected and autonomous cars will help us move towards a smart, safe, efficient and low-carbon future.”

“Connected and autonomous cars will transform our roads and the way our society functions for generations to come, dramatically reducing accidents and helping to deliver more than £50 billion to our economy,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive.

“The KPMG report clearly shows the UK automotive industry is leading the way in developing the cars of the future and that it will act as a catalyst for wider economic benefits that will create more than 300,000 jobs by 2030,” Hawes said. “The UK must grasp the opportunities ahead and ensure it is continually at the forefront of pushing through these next breakthrough technologies.”

Bright Future?

But earlier this month, a report from the Commons transport committee warned that the UK is a long way from being able to support driverless cars. It said the UK is critically under-prepared for the effect the introduction of these vehicles will have on our roads.

Despite that gloomy prediction, KPMG says that the UK has a two-year head-start on other European countries, as unlike many European countries, on-road driverless car pilots can take place in the UK without the need for primary legislation.

Indeed, driverless car trials have already begun in four British cities this year, namely Bristol, Greenwich (in South East London) and Milton Keynes and Coventry (working together as one project).

And last week the Chancellor George Osborne also announced a further £200 million government and industry investment into driverless research, development and demonstration in the UK.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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