The 2022 Queen’s Speech – delivered by Prince Charles following Monday’s announcement that the monarch would not attend – set out the UK government’s legislative programme but, somewhat disappointingly, there was no mention of self-driving.
This despite the letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson from 17 major UK businesses calling for primary legislation for automated vehicles (AVs) to be included…
… and the Queen’s Speech 2022: Transport In Focus article, published on the House of Lords Library webpage on 5 May, which said: “The speech is expected to include several measures concerning transport… establishing a new rail body; regulating the sale of e-scooters; and providing for driverless cars.”
Come the big day, there was only this broad commitment: “My Government will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovations.”
Indeed, the only transport sector to get a special mention was rail: “Legislation will be introduced to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers.”
It was left to others to fill in the gaps.
AA president, Edmund King, said: “The world of transport is changing rapidly with new innovations and technologies for consumers to choose from. Regardless of how people travel, we must keep the consumer at the heart of it.
“For car owners, the drive towards electrification needs more support and we are pleased to see more emphasis on boosting the public charging network. As well as installing more chargepoints, we need to ensure they are reliable, easy to use, safe and accessible to all.
“Similarly, drivers will need to be part of the conversation when it comes to introducing more autonomous technology in cars. Drivers are not quite ready to take their hands off the wheel and are nervous about handing over responsibility to the car but are supportive of technology such as autonomous emergency braking which enhances safety.
“With e-scooters and other forms of micro-mobility popping up more frequently on UK roads, it makes sense that safety regulation should come first. If introduced alongside appropriate infrastructure, e-mobility could help provide a positive shift in greener localised travel both for individuals and last-mile freight.”
Cllr David Renard, Transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils are determined to tackle climate change and are already supporting the transition to electric vehicles. It is good that the Queen’s Speech outlines ambitions to speed up this transition but councils need clarity about their role in delivering this change.”
Other parts of the speech which may be relevant to self-driving included “An Energy Bill to deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy” and the announcement that “The United Kingdom’s data protection regime will be reformed”.
Ah well, remember the glory days when, at the state opening of parliament, the Queen said: “My ministers will ensure the UK is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles.” That was back in 2016.
[Edit at 11.30am on Wed 11 May ]
Our thanks to Felix Boon, Solicitor and Senior Claim Adjuster at Zurich Insurance, for pointing out that, deep in the Queen’s Speech 2022 lobby pack (on page 31 of 140), there are couple of brief references to self-driving:
“Legislation for self-driving vehicles will enable an emerging UK sector in this new technology, predicted by the Connected Places Catapult in 2020 to be worth £41.7 billion to the UK economy by 2035 and expected to create 38,000 new skilled jobs.”
“Introducing new laws that safely enable self-driving and remotely operated vehicles and vessels, support the roll-out of electric vehicle charge points and enabling the licensing of London pedicabs.”
Apparently not worthy of inclusion in the actual Speech!