Smart connected autonomous and driverless cars could make the UK an auto world power once again, creating thousands of jobs and saving lives on the road.
By 2030, this industry could generate as many as 320,000 jobs, with a £51 billion boost to the nation’s economy, according to KPMG.
Last week, reports emerged that Google has held up to five face-to-face meetings with the British government to discuss driverless cars.
In July, Downing Street announced £20 million aimed at the development of driverless cars, in what ministers hailed as a major boost for the British motor industry.
Research from Transport Systems Catapult has found that 39% of the UK’s transport users would be willing to use a self-driving vehicle if it was available for purchase. The figure shoots to 62% amongst young professionals living in cities.
Dr. Mo Haghighi, senior analyst for strategic technology and IoE at ABI Research, told CBR: "Clearly the UK is taking a proactive approach towards autonomous driving."
However, the UK, Europe and the US could be overtaken by other markets such as the Chinese. Haghihi said: "It is possible that we will see the first driverless cars in Asia, possible in China. They have fewer restrictions and are more open to changing their legislation.
"If the Chinese government gets behind it, things can move even faster. We should not underestimate China. In the end, it is about legislation and trusting technology."
The first fully autonomous vehicles are predicted to hit the road between 2017 and 2022, and could be a quarter of worldwide auto sales by 2035, according to Boston Consulting Group.
Several luxury car makers, such as Tesla and BMW, already have vehicles that can drive themselves for a short distance and change lanes autonomously.
Google’s Chinese rival Baidu has recently unveiled plans to deploy autonomous buses, vans and shuttles in China by 2017. Japan is looking into robotics to develop driverless taxis, which could be on the road by 2024 in time for the XXXIII Olympic Games.
Alan Stevens, Chief Scientist, Transportation at TRL, told CBR: "The biggest challenges to overcome will be the technical challenges in making the technology work in rural and less predictable conditions, as well as the regulatory challenges around liability. There is also the challenge of how such vehicles will interact with manually driven cars in a mixed fleet environment.
"What we can expect to see is a gradual increase in road vehicles with greater and greater levels of driver assistance until we reach a point where the majority of the driving task is undertaken by automation systems."
With nearly 1.3 million annual deaths caused by car accidents around the world – nearly 2,000 in the UK alone -, autonomous and driverless cars could avoid up to 95% of causalities, Haghihi said.
Behind autonomous and driverless cars is the network that makes V2V communication possible. Dr Kevin Curran, Senior member of the IEEE, told CBR: "Network connectivity could possibly even become part of the national MOT.
"In future, the vehicle mobile phone hardware which provides a connection to the on-board computer system will also be vulnerable to malware, which could allow a thief to unlock the car remotely and steal it. This is serious as there are already talks of an app store for vehicle apps."
Furthering the UK’s role in the smart car space, researchers at the University of Cambridge have this week unveiled an AI smartphone-based system that can identify a user’s location and orientation when GPS systems do not work.
The system can also identify the various components of a road scene in real time on a regular camera or smartphone, according to the research.
Stevens said: "A key safety issue in remotely controlling a moving vehicle is that the operator has a good view around the vehicle. The human machine interface is also very important so that the operator easily understands the functionality and that unintended actions are avoided."