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Minister says fleets to lead on autonomous vehicles

Date: 10 April 2015   |   Author: Tristan Young

Fleets will be pioneer autonomous cars and technology, according to transport minister Robert Goodwill.

Speaking at the SMMT's Connected conference on the future of connected and autonomous cars, which took place in London late last month,  Goodwill said the UK was entering a "genuinely new era of motoring".

He added: "Leading the way will be the fleets, just as they lead the way in many innovations. But logistics operators, car clubs and leasing companies are also likely to drive the early market."

Goodwill said he thought that despite the extensive development of cars over the past 100-plus years, autonomous cars would overshadow this progress.

"It will be a new era that will be every bit as revolutionary as Ford's Model T because for the first time vehicles and roads will be designed to work together."

The SMMT conference also revealed research commissioned by the industry body and carried out by consultants KPMG, who interviewed vehicle manufacturers. It contained a prediction that a quarter of all new cars sold by 2030 will be capable of autonomous driving.

The Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The UK Economic Opportunity report also predicts that traffic accidents will be reduced by more than 25,000 a year with the introduction of driverless cars. KPMG said these cars are expected to boost the UK economy by £51bn and the rate of introduction of the technology will reach 75% of all new cars sold by 2040.

The report also forecasts that vehicles that can be driven autonomously on the motorway only will be available as early as 2025, while highly autonomous vehicles (those that drive themselves in the city and motorway but with controls to let a driver take back control) and fully autonomous vehicles (no driver required in all situations encountered during an entire journey) will not be available until 2030.

Premium brands such as Jaguar Land Rover are expected to pave the way with new technology first.
Goodwill said: "Connected infrastructure, autonomous cars, vehicle-to-vehicle communications and smart logistics will combine to transform road travel.

"The new vehicles will give the driver the choice of being in control or, if they want, to hand the task of driving to the vehicle itself.

"It will give us much improved information about journeys, journey options and routes. And it will avoid congestion and help us find parking spaces and fix faults if we breakdown. It will save time, money and inconvenience. It will make our streets safer and give the freedom of the road to those that currently can't drive. And it will change the way we manage traffic so we can make more of road capacity."

He added the change will also prompt an unrivalled opportunity for those who can rise to this challenge.
"We are building invaluable experience with these technologies. We are building smart motorways, which will result in smart corridors linking our major cities."