The connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) market could be worth £41.7 billion to the UK economy by 2035. That’s according to Transport Minister Rachel Maclean.
The figure doesn’t come from commercial analyst predictions, but from a report by the Connected Places Catapult – the government agency for spurring adoption of smart mobility technologies – in partnership with Element Energy and policy consultants Cambridge Econometrics. As such, it can be seen as an official government estimate.
The report adds that by 2035, 40 percent of new UK car sales could have self-driving capabilities. In turn, this could create nearly 40,000 skilled jobs locally in CAV technologies – with each worth nearly £1 million in economic value, if the Catapult’s figures are correct.
It should be clarified that the 40 percent of cars with self-driving abilities does not mean that all of those vehicles will be fully autonomous; merely that a capacity for self-driving in some circumstances, or extensive driver assistance capabilities, is likely. As such, it may prove to be a conservative estimate in terms of new vehicle sales.
Meanwhile, connected cars – vehicles that are networked to external information sources or each other– are likely to be the norm in a 15-year timescale.
Maclean said, “The investment in, and development of, CAVs could truly transform the way people and goods are transported.
“We are on the cusp of a driving revolution. Not only could this tech unlock vast opportunities for the UK economy and jobs market, it could significantly improve the safety and efficiency of how we travel over the coming decades.”
The government’s ambitions to make the UK a global centre for CAVs and smart transport are dependent on the country remaining attractive to carmakers in the post-Brexit world, and having internationally recognised standards.
Those ambitions received a boost in January when Nissan announced that it would continue to assemble cars at its Sunderland plant, rather than relocate to the EU, which it had threatened to do in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
The Japanese car giant also said it would source batteries for its 62Kwh Leaf model from the UK rather than the US – meeting Rules of Origin requirements for 55 percent of a car’s components being sourced locally to avoid tariffs.
Nevertheless, the UK will have to do better than not losing existing business if it is to succeed alone on the world stage.
National smart transport ambitions also rely on there being a robust, predictable high-speed telecoms and data infrastructure, including 5G and subsequent networking generations.
At present, the UK has among the slowest average mobile and fixed-line broadband speeds in the developed world, with commercial 5G rollout hampered by the fallout from the US trade dispute with China under former President Trump.
But there is no faulting Whitehall’s ambitions under the Industrial Strategy. Since 2015, the government has invested over £200 million in CAV research and development – a modest but targeted figure.
Five and Oxbotica are among the startups that have received central support and investment. In 2020, Oxbotica launched an urban autonomous driving programme called Project Endeavour, which will be running trials in Oxford, London, and Birmingham.
Lord Grimstone, Minister for Investment at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said, “Self-driving vehicles represent a huge economic opportunity for the UK, unlocking much-needed jobs and economic growth.
“Government is backing business to realise this – driving forward the future of the UK’s automotive and technology sectors.”
Nicola Yates, CEO of Connected Places Catapult, added, “CAV technologies have the potential to revolutionise transport.
“Designed in the right way, a system of connected autonomous vehicles could make our transport network more accessible, safer, more efficient, and better for the environment.”