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UK’s autonomous vehicle ambitions struggling to get into gear

The UK has bold visions for autonomous vehicles on the road. Last year, the UK Government pledged to have autonomous cars on the road by 2021, while the UK market for both connected and autonomous vehicles is estimated to be worth £52bn by 2035.

According to KPMG's Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI) the UK is ninth in terms of the most advanced autonomous vehicle markets.

That represents a slip of two places, with South Korea and the United Arab Emirates overtaking the UK into the fast lane. The Netherlands, which was previously ranked number one, dropped to second behind Singapore. Other countries in the top ten included Norway, United States, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.

The UK, however, did receive praise for its efforts. Sarah Owen-Vandersluis of KPMG said: "The UK continues to be a leader in autonomous vehicle legislation and policy, and has made notable progress to ensure that the regulatory environment will enable autonomous vehicle implementation."

While there will be some disappointment at the ranking across the UK industry, there are points to celebrate. For example, one key worry with autonomous vehicles is that there is a risk of them being hacked and the resulting safety concerns. However, the UK actually ranked number one in terms of cybersecurity in KPMG’s report.

With that said, it’s important to note that even if the vehicles themselves cannot be directly interfered with, the environment they operate in can be manipulated. For example, one well known case involved two Tesla vehicles which were tricked into accelerating far beyond the speed limit. This was not done through any sophisticated methods - instead, security researchers simply stuck two pieces of tape onto a speed limit sign to change it from '35' to '85'.

This does not mean that autonomous vehicles cannot be trusted. On the contrary, it’s important that these flaws are discovered and fixed now so consumers have the confidence they need to buy and use the products in the years ahead.

Safety is important in every industry but particularly so in automotive, where even the simplest defect can lead to disastrous results. Autonomous vehicles are the future, but it would be wise not to rush into that future. Taking the time now to get things right will pay off in the longer term and, while recalls of autonomous vehicles are a near certainty, we hopefully will not see them in huge volumes.

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