The Queen’s Speech recently announced a new Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Bill, which aims to make Britain a world leader in future transport. For the uninitiated however, these words are mere jargon and have little impact on our everyday driving – or do they?
Autonomous vehicles, simply put, are those driverless cars you see Google and Uber trialling – or the vehicles that have been skittering around Greenwich over the past year. They’re gathering pace quite rapidly, and there is expected to be 10 million self-driving cars on our roads by 2020.
Whereas autonomous vehicles exist in beta trials and prototypes currently, electric vehicles are far more commonplace. There are now more than 2 million electric vehicles globally – particularly in Norway and China. To drive adoption further, under the new Bill, all motorway service stations will be required to have electric charging points – which removes one of the main barriers to electric car adoption: the ability to re-fuel with ease.
The Government’s stance is not a surprising one, given the benefits of both technologies. Electric cars produce fewer carbon emissions, obviously, and could even save drivers money in the long run. The main downside to electric vehicles at the moment is the availability of charging points. It is still a developing technology; so fuelling points aren’t as widespread as petrol stations. That said, the Autonomous and Electric Vehicle Bill will solve a big part of that problem.
Autonomous vehicles are a little more left field. The technology is still in its infancy and monopolised by large tech giants. The benefits of autonomous vehicles lie in their efficiency and safety. Take the human element out of driving and you remove the human error that can cause accidents; human endurance that means you cannot drive for long periods of time and human inefficiency – it’s far easier for a computer to know exactly when to change gears to save on fuel consumption, for instance.
Whatever the future of our roads, the UK Government has made it clear that it intends for Britain to be miles ahead of the competition. As for what that means for the future of the automotive industry in the UK, well, we can only wait and see.