A report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has suggested that the UK is in a prime position to be one of the leading producers of self-drive vehicles. The report cited that due to investment from industry leaders and the government, Britain has placed itself in a good position for the future. That is as long as there is some form of withdrawal agreement from the EU.

Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the SMMT, said  “The opportunities are dramatic – new jobs, economic growth and improvements across society. The UK’s potential is clear. We are ahead of many rival nations but to realise these benefits we must move fast.”

However, this was followed by warnings over a no-deal Brexit, “No deal is not an option and would be catastrophic for this industry, and the UK’s position globally would be undermined.

“While we are devoting a huge amount of money to Brexit it is sucking up time, energy and investment we would rather be devoting to technology challenges.”

The report, named-“Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Winning the Global Race to Market” anayleses tghe societal and economic impact of innovation in this area. The report was produced by SMMT and Friost and Sulluvan nad has been both welcomed and critiqued by those within the industry.

The report highlighted the fact that more than £500 million has already been invested in the areas of CAV R&D and testing. Autonomous trials have already taken place in major towns and that the UK is already home to a number of test centres. All attributes which SMMT say has put the UK in a prime position.

The report ranked the UK above competitors such as Germany, US, Japan and South Korea as a destination for the production of self-drive vehicles. This is due to the investment in the industry, a skilled labour force and at the moment, connections to an open and eager market

The report also credited the UK’s motorways and urban and rural road infrastructure which would be suitable for self-drive cars. The UK  is also the first country in the world with legislation for insurance on autonomous vehicles.

However, other industry leaders have called in to question that viability of autonomous vehicles, at least in the reports time frame. Andy Palmer chief executive of Aston Martin believes that we will not see autonomous vehicles in the next 20 years.

The Guardian reported that Palmer said “You’re going to see robotaxis in geofenced areas as early as 2021-22. I don’t think you’ll see the commercial distribution of level-four vehicles until the mid-2020s. I don’t think you’ll see level five in my career. To drive up a mountain or a Delhi or London street – I think we’re dreaming if we think it’s going to be around the corner.”

Worries within the Industry

As we have displayed in earlier publications, Brexit along with declining car sales and manufacturers moving or slowing down production has affected the car industry within the UK. The SMMT report comes at a time when Brexit is no clearer than it has been some months ago. This has exasperated an already troubled industry.

Car production for the UK and export markets dropped by 11% and 16.4% year-on-year to trigger a 15.3% overall decline during February.

Brexit

Shawn of SMMT said of a no-deal Bexit, “A managed no deal is a fantasy. Uncertainty has already paralysed investment, cost jobs and damaged our global reputation”.

“Business anxiety has now reached fever pitch and we desperately need parliament to come together to restore stability so that we can start to rebuild investor confidence and get back to the business of delivering for the economy.”

“Meanwhile, production for the EU – the UK’s biggest customer – declined by 14.9%.”

The SMMT said that, although exports have declined in recent months, overseas demand continued to drive output and still accounted for nearly eight-in-10 cars produced. Highlighting another reason for the UK to maintain its position in the production of autonomous vehicles.

It said: “This underlines the importance of securing a truly free and frictionless future trading relationship with our most important trading partner.

“The motor industry has been unequivocal about the impact of no deal, which would have an immediate and potentially irreversible impact on cost, productivity and competitiveness.”

Even with the report’s critics, it has been welcomed by many in the industry. It is hoped that should deal be struck with the EU that the development of autonomous vehicles could inject up to £62 billion in the UK economy by 2030 relayed the Guardian.

For an already struggling industry such reports are going to cause a lot of people to take notice of the potential impact of changes in the future.