The top brass from 17 major UK businesses have jointly written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for the Government to announce primary legislation for automated vehicles (AVs) in the Queen’s Speech on 10 May.
The broad coalition consists of representatives from the self-driving sector – AECOM, Aurrigo, Conigital, Wayve and Westfield Technology Group – the insurance sector – Admiral, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), AXA, Thatcham Research and Zego – the tech sector – Coadec, techUK and Virgin – the finance sector – firstminute capital and Eclipse Ventures – and supermarket groups ASDA and Ocado.
Legal framework for self-driving
Together, they call for a comprehensive legal framework for the safe and sustainable deployment of AVs, citing economic and societal benefits including improved road safety and reduced emissions.
Sky News concluded that: “The letter contained a veiled warning to ministers, including the business secretary, that time was running out to keep pace with rival regulatory frameworks.”
Notably, in Germany, 13,000km of motorway are already approved for Level 3 automated driving.
In the UK, the recent Highway Code announcement to move Britain “closer to a self-driving revolution” referred to a 2025 target for having a full regulatory framework in place.
The letter quotes statistics from the Connected Places Catapult – the government’s innovation agency for the transport industry – including “an export potential worth £10.9bn by 2035.”
Dougie Barnett, Director of Customer Risk Management at AXA UK, commented: “As one of the largest motor insurers, AXA is keen to support, promote and enable the take-up of automated technology on UK roads.
“AVs would provide significant societal benefits, including safer, cleaner and more accessible roads and, via the development of the technology, would support SMEs scaling up and subsequently levelling-up throughout the UK.
“However, the development of self-driving technology needs to be underpinned by a robust legal and regulatory framework, which prioritises the safety of all road users.
“With this letter, we are urging the Government to announce primary legislation for AVs, ensuring safety remains at the heart of their development and deployment as well as advancing the benefits they bring to society.”
Self-driving legislation letter
The letter, dated 21 April 2022 and titled “Primary Legislation for Automated Vehicles”, was addressed to PM Boris Johnson and cc’d to Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, Trudy Harrison MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport (DfT) and Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The full text reads…
Dear Prime Minister,
We write from across industry to highlight the benefits of automated vehicles (AVs) to the UK and call on the Government to announce primary legislation for Automated Vehicles in the upcoming Queen’s Speech. We welcome the extensive work of the Law Commissions of England and Wales, and Scotland, who have collaborated with industry to propose a comprehensive legal framework for the safe and sustainable deployment of AVs.
The UK has a unique opportunity to be a global leader in the development and deployment of AVs, or self-driving vehicles. This technology is the most exciting innovation for transport in decades and has the potential to level-up every corner of the UK, improve the country’s productivity, create jobs, reduce emissions, improve road safety, and bolster opportunities everywhere.
The industry has the potential to unleash economic growth across the whole of the UK. The global market for AVs is predicted to be worth £650bn by 2035, of which the UK is estimated to gain £41.7bn, creating 49,000 highly skilled green jobs in 2035, and a further 23,000 jobs from AV technologies. There is also an export potential worth £10.9bn by 2035 [according to the Connected Places Catapult Market Forecast For Connected and Autonomous Vehicles].
Beyond the significant economic opportunity, this transition is essential to meet the Government’s Net Zero target. Self-driving electric vehicles could greatly reduce congestion, pollution and fuel consumption. In addition, they offer huge opportunities for an increase in safety and reduction in road deaths. Research shows that a shift to AVs could bring a 93% reduction in accidents by 2040. And since road accidents are the leading cause of death among those aged 15-29, many thousands of lives are likely to be saved.
We urge the Government to consider the benefit this can bring to people’s everyday lives across the country too. Automated mobility has the potential to better connect rural communities and provide people with better access to opportunities. For example, a visually impaired person who can’t drive or navigate public transport easily will be able to stay connected to their friends and family via a self-driving mobility service. AVs also mean goods, like our everyday groceries, can be moved around the country more efficiently and safely, supporting the green transition of the last-mile delivery market which is predicted to be worth £44bn by 2025.
It is crucial that we unlock this technology and create a safe regulatory framework for people across the UK. This is a critical year in the development of this technology, as we see more examples of AVs moving closer to deployment. The Government needs to introduce legislation this year, to ensure the UK remains a world leader in AVs, and continues attracting investment to the UK. We are aware that other countries are looking to legislate this year and we strongly recommend that the UK maintains its global stance in this industry.
We would be pleased to discuss any of the above and look forward to continued engagement with the Government as the regulatory framework for the safe use of self-driving technology evolves.
Claudio Gienal, CEO, AXA UK&I
Alex Kendall, Co-founder and CEO, Wayve
Josh Bayliss, CEO, Virgin Group
Prof. David Keene, CEO, Aurrigo
Cristina Nestares, UK CEO, Admiral
Matthew Avery, CEO, Thatcham Research
Julian Turner, CEO, Westfield Technology Group
Don Dhaliwal, CEO, Conigital Limited
Dom Hallas, Executive Director, Coadec
Tim Steiner OBE, CEO, Ocado Group
Brent Hoberman, Co-founder & Executive Chairman, firstminute capital
Sten Saar, CEO, Zego
Seth Winterroth, Partner, Eclipse Ventures
Andy Barker, COO, AECOM
Julian David, CEO, techUK
James Dalton, Director of General Insurance Policy, ABI
Simon Gregg, Senior Vice President – E-Commerce, ASDA