Stian Westlake, Executive Director of Policy and Research at Nesta, comments on Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to back driverless car trials on UK motorways
Stian Westlake, Executive Director of Policy and Research at Nesta, comments on the government's plans to establish the UK as a global centre for excellence in connected vehicles and conduct trials of driverless cars on the country's roads by 2017.
"Driverless cars are an innovation that can bring huge benefits: they're safer, make people's lives easier, and will generate billions of pounds in new business around the world. The UK has a chance to be a world leader in this important new sector. To do this, we need two things: technological savvy, and a regulatory framework to encourage self-driving cars. Getting regulation right may seem simple, but it's crucially important. The country that can work out how to deploy self-driving cars safely and effectively on its roads, and how urban life will change as a result of them, will get a huge economic boost.
"Britain already has some excellent technology in the field: companies like Ultra Global PRT (for which Nesta provided early funding), and institutions like Oxford's Mobile Robotics Lab are world-leading. The Chancellor’s plans will help solve the other big challenge: getting the right regulatory framework. In particular, expanding test-bed programme for self-driving cars is an important step forward. It's only by experimentation, by testing out how self-driving cars will work in practice and how people will use them, that we can make the most of them. Innovation is a contact sport. But test-beds allow it to take place as safely as possible.
"Driverless cars offer big benefits for consumers and for the economy alike. Ultimately, leading the charge in real-world experimentation with new technologies like driverless cars will put the UK at the forefront of innovation in this field. And, investing in technology and infrastructure like this today will bring about the most returns for the economy in the long-run"
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