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Driverless cars to deliver £8bn increase in earning potential for one million people

Driverless cars to deliver £8bn increase in earning potential for one million people

Connected and autonomous vehicles will transform the lives of six out of every 10 people in the UK, while collectively boosting the earning potential of one million people by more than £8 billion a year, according to new research published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).  

The report ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Revolutionising Mobility in Society’, which is claimed to be the first comprehensive UK-based study of the human impact of such vehicles, canvassed the views of more than 3,600 respondents and found that the new technology would offer freedom to some of society’s most disadvantaged, including those with disabilities, older people and the young.

The research, conducted with Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting arm, showed connected and autonomous vehicles had the potential to reduce social exclusion significantly and the potential to give one million more people access to further education, enabling them to increase their earning potential by an estimated average of £8,509 per year.

Six out of 10 (57%) of people surveyed said the new technology would improve their quality of life. For young people, the impact could be even greater, with 71% of those aged 17 to 24 believing their lives would be improved. Consumers were increasingly seeing the benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles, with 56% feeling positive about them. Young people were most excited, with almost half (49%) saying they would get into a connected and autonomous vehicle today if one were available.

Automatic braking and parking and the car’s ability to self-diagnose faults were cited as features most likely to reduce stress - the biggest attraction of owning a connected and autonomous vehicle among all groups.  

Freedom to travel spontaneously and socialise with friends and family were also seen as life-changing benefits, with 88% of people who believed connected and autonomous vehicles would improve their social life saying such a car would help them get out of the house more regularly.  

People with mobility-related disabilities were among those set to benefit the most, with almost half (49%) saying a connected and autonomous vehicle would allow them to pursue hobbies outside of home or go out to restaurants more often (46%). Meanwhile, two fifths (39%) said they would benefit from having better access to healthcare.  

Adults in that group were nearly three times as likely as the rest of the population to lack a formal qualification, and less likely to be in paid employment. With car ownership lower in that group than the average population, connected and autonomous vehicles offered the potential to access education and better paid jobs, suggested the report.  

Older people were also set to benefit, with almost a third having problems walking or using a bus, and many unable to drive due to ill-health, poor eyesight or prohibitive insurance, making a strong case for self-driving cars.  

47% of survey respondents said a connected and autonomous vehicle would make it easier for them to fulfil basic day-to-day tasks such as grocery shopping, while 45% looked forward to pursuing more cultural activities such as visiting museums or going to concerts or football matches.

Mobility was also a challenge for many young people with more than a quarter (29%) saying the cost of car ownership, particularly high insurance premiums, restricted their freedom.  

Meanwhile, all groups cited the frequency of public transport as a barrier. More than two in five (43%) also cited the high cost and infrequency of public transport (33%) as a restriction.  

The potential for saving money, therefore, was highlighted as a key benefit of connected and autonomous vehicles.  

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles are life-changing, offering more people greater independence, freedom to socialise, work and earn more, and access services more easily. While fully autonomous cars will be a step change for society, this report shows people are already seeing their benefits. The challenge now is to create the conditions that will allow this technology to thrive, given how it will deliver wider societal advantages.”  

Mark Couttie, Strategy& partner, said: “There is a real risk that this momentum and competitor advantage in the UK will stall if we don’t do more to create positive public perception, overcoming our inherent risk averse culture.  

“Expanding people’s horizons about the advantages of fully autonomous cars is a vital first step. This means better communicating the art of the possible to increase social acceptance and dispel concerns that our survey identified relating to cost and safety.  

“Significant investment must also be made to improve the connectivity infrastructure across the UK road network.”  

Although fully connected and autonomous vehicles aren’t expected to become mainstream until 2030, most new cars are now connected via sat nav or Bluetooth, and more than half are available with safety systems such as collision warning or autonomous emergency braking. 

The UK is also fast establishing itself as a centre of excellence for connected and autonomous vehicle technology, with billions of pounds of investment already delivering public trials of autonomous driving and testing of prototype vehicles by car makers on UK roads.