UK government introduces proposals to accelerate move toward electric and driverless cars


The UK government is moving forward its green transport agenda with the introduction of proposed legislation that will see a major expansion of the country’s electric vehicle (EV) recharging infrastructure and allow automated cars to be insured.

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill will increase the access and availability of chargepoints for EVs, while also giving the government powers to make it compulsory for recharging equipment to be installed across the country, including at all UK motorway services and large petrol retailers.

Drivers of EVs will be able to easily locate and charge at any chargepoint, using information from satellite navigation systems or smartphone apps, regardless of the vehicle make or model, making the use of electric transport even easier for consumers. All chargepoints will have to be ‘smart’, meaning they must be able to interact with the grid, in order to manage demand for electricity across the country.

The new bill will also enable drivers of automated cars to be insured on UK roads. In 2016, 85.9% of collisions causing injury involved human error, and the government sees automated vehicles as having the potential to greatly reduce road traffic accidents, while its official research estimates that the market will be worth £50bn (US$66bn) to the UK economy by 2035. Under the proposals, all drivers of automated vehicles will be required to be insured and victims of collisions involving an automated vehicle will have quick and easy access to compensation, in line with existing insurance practices.

“We want the UK to be the best place in the world to do business as a leading hub for modern transport technology; that is why we are introducing the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill in Parliament and investing more than £1.2bn (US$1.6bn) in the industry,” noted Transport Minister John Hayes. “This bill will aid the construction of greater infrastructure to support the growing demand for automated and electric vehicles as we embrace this technology and shape the future.”

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the SMMT, commented, “Increasing and improving the recharging infrastructure is a vital step for the growth of the electric vehicles, and boosting confidence will be essential to increasing uptake.”

James Dalton, of the Association of British Insurers, said, “We wholeheartedly support the development of automated vehicles, as they have the potential to significantly reduce the large number of road accidents caused by driver error. This bill will give the industry time to prepare for the commercial roll-out of fully automated driving technology.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).