9 December 2013 - Alongside the government's Spending Review back in June, the then Secretary of State for Transport presented the report outlying its strategy for roads Action for Roads - A network for the 21st century that included a promise to work to encourage the development and introduction of autonomous vehicles on UK roads. It also stated there would be a scoping study to look at the barriers to implementation and explore opportunities for UK trials.
However, the tone on the potential for such technologies for getting more out of infrastructure from DfT (rather than building more roads) was cautious, saying, "Our role is to ensure that we can make use of these developments quickly if they prove right for the UK".
Other parts of Government are intent on promoting Robotics and Autonomous systems as one of the ‘eight great technologies’ to drive UK growth, and a report from the Cabinet Office suggested that Autonomous Vehicles are moving up the policy agenda.
In last week's Autumn statement George Osborne (among many announcements) updated the timing of the proposed trials and previewed a £10m million prize to incentive research.
National Infrastructure Plan 2013
In the Autumn Statement 2013 speech, the Chancellor made reference to an update to the National Infrastructure Plan, saying "We have to decide whether we are serious as a country about competing in the modern world and say to people: we need the new roads, and the new railways including the Northern Hub and High Speed 2."
The National Infrastructure Plan 2013 brings together the government's analysis of the UK’s infrastructure needs across different sectors, identifying infrastructure that is needed - and the rationale for selecting each of the government’s Top 40 priority investments, providing some details on the timing, funding and status of each.
Infrastructure Advisory Council
The plan, presented by Danny Alexander MP and Lord Deighton, sets out how the government plans to deliver its Top 40 investments, including a dedicated ‘hot-desk’ in Infrastructure UK where Top 40 project owners can raise issues of concern, special consideration in the planning regime and UK Guarantees Scheme. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
The Infrastructure Advisory Council is to act as a sounding board for Infrastructure UK, to strengthen links between government and the private sector.
The plan also sets out a new Major Infrastructure Tracking unit within Infrastructure UK which will allow it to track the progress of each Top 40 investment.
The National Infrastructure Plan was first published in 2010, to bring together activity across the range of economic infrastructure sectors. The Treasury states that the 2013 refresh is the product of close engagement with bodies across the infrastructure community.
"Driverless cars will change the way the world’s towns and cities look and the way people travel"
Driverless cars feature as technology for which the government said it will also build on the funding announcements announced at Spending Round 2013.
As at the time of the chancellor's spending review in the summer, a £10 million prize was previewed to encourage investment in ultra-low emissions vehicles. This time an announcement of a prize for the same amount is to be offered for a town or city to develop as a testing ground for driverless cars.
National Infrastructure Plan also contains a promise to review the legislative and regulatory framework for developing and testing driverless cars in the UK, reporting by the end of 2014.
According to the National Infrastructure Plan, "driverless cars are innovative technology that will change the way the world’s towns and cities look and the way people travel; they present opportunities for the British automotive industry in the manufacture of the cars and the wider science and engineering sectors in the design of towns. To ensure that UK industry and the wider public benefit from the development of driverless cars, the government announces in the National Infrastructure Plan that it will conduct a review, reporting at the end of 2014, to ensure that the legislative and regulatory framework demonstrates to the world’s car companies that the UK is the right place to develop and test driverless cars."