Britain will be a world leader when it comes to developing self-driving cars, according to the transport secretary.
Mark Harper made the claim after an Automated Vehicles Bill was included in the King’s Speech on Tuesday, outlining the government’s forthcoming legislative programme.
The legislation will aim to ensure clear legal liability over who or which organisation is responsible during crashes involving autonomous vehicles.
This is seen as vital to encourage companies to develop the technology in the UK.
Harper, who took a ride in Westminster yesterday in a self-driving car being tested by automated driving company Wayve, told the PA news agency the bill ‘makes Britain the place where companies like Wayve want to invest’.
He added: ‘It makes us the number one location for developing this sort of technology in the world, which is exactly what we wanted to achieve.
‘It’s the combination of regulatory certainty and also the skills that we have in the UK with the people that are skilled in developing this technology.
‘The combination of that makes us a great place to develop this technology.’
The government estimates the sector will be able to generate up to £42bn for the UK economy and create 38,000 skilled jobs by 2035.
And Harper predicted that self-driving vehicles will be allowed to operate regularly on Britain’s roads ‘in the next couple of years’.
Asked if the technology was safe, he replied: ‘In the legislation, there’s a very clear safety framework to make sure, like in other safety-critical industries, that you’ve got all the proper systems in place to make sure they’re safe.
‘It’s worth remembering [that in] 88% of road accidents that take place today, human error is some part of it.
‘All of the car manufacturers that I have spoken to that are interested in developing this technology are all focused on delivering safety as one of, if not the primary requirement that they’re looking to do, to really drive down the number of accidents that we have on the roads.’