UK must do more on autonomous vehicle infrastructure, finds research

The UK government has a long-held ambition to be at the forefront of autonomous and connected vehicle technologies. But new research from KPMG suggests that it must do more to improve infrastructure and alter consumer perceptions of the value of autonomous vehicles, if it is to boost its standing further.

Although the UK is a leader when it comes to the policy and legislative changes needed to support self-driving vehicles, according to KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index, it ranks in seventh position in terms of its progress and capacity for adopting autonomous vehicle technology – a drop of two places from last year’s index.

“Without broad consumer acceptance and willingness to use driverless cars, it will be difficult for an autonomous vehicle market to develop and the enormous benefits to be realised.”

Richard Threlfall, KPMG

Two new entrants – Norway and Finland – rank ahead of the UK after putting in place significant infrastructure developments to support the implementation of autonomous vehicles. The Netherlands and Singapore lead the rankings for the second year running.

“The UK is a global leader in many respects, having made a conscious effort to ensure implementation isn’t hampered by red tape. Just this month, the Department for Transport announced that it would introduce a system to allow the first tests on public roads of advanced autonomous vehicles without a steering wheel or human in control, a first for Europe,” said Sarah Owen-Vandersluis, Head of Public Sector Mobility Strategy at KPMG UK.

Leadership in autonomous vehicle policy and legislative change

KPMG pointed to a number of forward-thinking measures in the UK’s approach to deploying autonomous vehicles that helped it to rank second in the index for policy and legislative change:

  • The passage through parliament of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act, extending the existing motor insurance framework so compulsory policies cover driverless cars

  • The government’s support for public trials of driverless buses and taxis

  • Cross-government collaboration, with the Law Commissions of England and Wales and Scotland currently reviewing the UK’s legal framework for autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index – top ten countries

  1. The Netherlands
  2. Singapore
  3. Norway
  4. United States
  5. Sweden
  6. Finland
  7. United Kingdom
  8. Germany
  9. United Arab Emirates
  10. Japan

At the same time, however, the research noted that the UK is yet to make good on investments in physical and digital infrastructure.

KPMG found that Britain has some way to go in 4G and 5G coverage and connectivity and should continue investing in 5G test beds. It also found that Britain’s island geography means the quality of the road network and logistics infrastructure can be ‘challenging’, but is set to improve with increased investment and industry collaboration.

Addressing consumer perceptions of autonomous vehicles

The UK could also do more to enhance public perceptions around the benefits of autonomous vehicles and address consumer concerns about safety, found the research. While such consumer acceptance is seen as critical to the successful deployment of autonomous vehicles, the UK lags behind other countries in this area.

KPMG said that both government and industry have a role to play in communicating the benefits of autonomous vehicles to consumers and addressing safety concerns.

“Ultimately, the consumer is going to drive the pace of adoption of autonomous vehicles,” said Richard Threlfall, Global Head of Infrastructure at KPMG.

“Without broad consumer acceptance and willingness to use driverless cars, it will be difficult for an autonomous vehicle market to develop and the enormous benefits to be realised.”

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