Budget 2017: £400m boost for electric vehicles to pave way for driverless cars

Budget 2017: £400m boost for electric vehicles to pave way for driverless cars
Budget 2017: £400m boost for electric vehicles to pave way for driverless cars

The government has thrown its weight behind electric and driverless vehicles by announcing a £400m fund to establish a network of charging points across the UK.

Chancellor Philip Hammond highlighted the need for electric vehicles to pave the way for driverless ones during his Budget speech, which he hopes will hit UK roads by 2021.

An additional £100m will go to a Plug-In-Car grant, which reduces the price consumers pay for brand new electric and hybrid vehicles, and £40m to charging point research and development.

Waymo's driverless cars have been driving unmanned around Arizona since October 2017 (Photo: Waymo)
Waymo’s driverless cars – owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet – have been driving unmanned around Arizona since October 2017 (Photo: Waymo)

Mr Hammond failed to announce expected regulatory changes necessary for wider testing of driverless cars on UK roads, opting to enthusiastically back more easily-attainable electric car infrastructure.

“There is perhaps no technology as symbolic of the revolution gathering pace around us as driverless vehicles. I know Jeremy Clarkson doesn’t like them but there are many other good reasons to pursue this,” he joked.

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“So, today we step up our support for it. Sorry Jeremy, but definitely not the first time you’ve been snubbed by Hammond and May.

“Our future vehicles will be driverless, but they’ll be electric first, and that’s a change that needs to come as soon as possible.”

While experts hail the many benefits driverless cars could bring, obstacles must be overcome before they can become commonplace on our roads. Much of the UK lacks the infrastructure required for self-driving cars to navigate, while public unease and fear over the potential impact on the jobs of human drivers remain.

RIEDEN, GERMANY - JUNE 11: A Tesla electric-powered sedan stands at a Tesla charging staiton at a highway reststop along the A7 highway on June 11, 2015 near Rieden, Germany. Tesla has introduced a limited network of charging stations along the German highway grid in an effort to raise the viability for consumers to use the cars for longer journeys. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Tesla is one of the world’s most prominent electric car makers (Photo: Getty)

The law will also be clarified to ensure employees who charge their electric vehicles at work will avoid a benefit-in-kind charge from next year, the Chancellor added.

Officials estimate that the driverless car sector will be worth £28bn to the economy by 2035 and could support 27,000 jobs, which Mr Hammond claimed could help the UK “lead the next industrial revolution” in an interview last week.

New diesel vehicles which fail to meet the latest real-world emissions standards will incur a rise in vehicle excise duty from April 2018, but a widely-expected fuel duty hike did not materialise.

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Non-conforming diesel cars will by pushed up by a tax band, while company car tax will increase from 3 per cent to 4 per cent.

“Drivers buying a new car will be able to avoid this charge as soon as manufacturers bring forward the next-generation cleaner diesels that we all want to see,” he added. The hike will not affect van or lorry drivers.

The levy will be pumped into a new £220m Clean Air Fund to clamp down on pollution and improve air quality.

The government recently ruled that insurance laws must be adapted to cover injuries to all parties in accidents involving automated vehicles. The new framework would give victims “quick and easy access to compensation,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF DRIVERLESS CARSKITT knight rider GettyGoogle’s Waymo project made history earlier this month by testing its driverless cars on public roads with no one behind the wheel, but the history of autonomous vehicles stretches back centuries.
Leonardo da Vinci wrote detailed plans for a robotic cart capable of powering itself in the 1400s, and Norman Bel Geddes exhibited an early automated car at the 1938 World’s Fair exposition.
John McCarthy, a computing expert credited as one of the forefounders of artificial intelligence, wrote an essay entitled ‘Computer Controlled Cars’ in 1969, decades before Knight Rider’s David Hasselhoff cruised the streets of LA in talking AI-powered car KITT during the ’80s.
Advances in AI and tracking technology enabled a new wave of self-driving vehicles in the mid 2000s, spearheaded by Google but also encompassing ride-hailing app Uber’s plans for a driverless fleet of cars and Tesla’s incorporation of full self-driving hardware into all of its vehicles produced from October 2016 onwards.

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