Blog: The UK can become a leader in CAV testing, but not technology

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The UK Government’s announced £300m of funding for connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) projects is unlikely to establish the country as a leader in CAV technology; however, it will be well positioned to become a global hub for CAV testing and regulatory development.

GlobalData’s latest research reveals that while the UK Government’s cash injection is unlikely to help UK-based suppliers compete with cash-rich global technology players, the strengthening of its existing automotive centres of excellence between the West Midlands and London will help create the conditions for the global acceptance of CAVs and new transport business models.

Ongoing investments from the UK Government in CAV technologies and testing are part of a far-sighted strategy to make the UK a global leader in the evolving CAV ecosystem. The UK Government is attempting to create a UK ecosystem of home-grown CAV technology suppliers and testing facilities through a series of investments and competitions aimed at stimulating co-operation between industry, academia and government institutions. While this direct government involvement in the development of CAVs and CAV technology is unusual, the level of investment seems unlikely to create products to compete with those from suppliers such as Waymo and Cruise Automation.

The UK Government is taking a proactive approach to guiding the development of CAVs, which are set to revolutionise transport around the world, whether that is in 10 years’ or 30 years’ time. However, government funding is unlikely to make the UK a leading centre of CAV technology supply and export, due mainly to the low level of investment compared with leading suppliers from the ICT and automotive markets.

Realistically a few hundred million pounds in public funding is not enough to compete with the billions now being spent by global giants such as Google’s sister company, Waymo, and General Motors’ GM Cruise subsidiary, but that shouldn’t really be an expectation for these investments.

The less appealing outcomes of the Government’s CAV investments, for example the development of appropriate regulations and standards for the real-world deployment of CAVs, are likely to prove the most important in the long term.

The greatest legacy of the UK Government’s CAV investments is likely to be in steering the rest of the world in terms of accommodating CAVs into existing transportation infrastructure and services and in developing new ones. Their position can be expected to evolve as developments continue.

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