In last week’s budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the aim to have fully driverless cars on British roads by 2021. But are the public, and the leasing industry, ready for it? Jonathan Nolan (pictured right), general manager at UK Carline, discusses.
The Budget brought very few surprises last week, but one piece of legislation that was more unexpected was the Government’s plans to have self driving cars on British roads by 2021.
Thankfully, this doesn’t mean we’ll all be taking our hands off the wheel in little over three years time. As critics have noted, the technology needed to transform driverless cars from sci-fi fantasy to an integral part of our daily lives is still a long way off.
However, the new legislation does mean that it will be easier for manufacturers to test their vehicles on UK roads, taking us one step closer to a driverless future.
A scary thought? Perhaps, but the opportunities for industry are rife, with the Treasury believing that driverless cars could support 27,000 jobs and be worth £28 billion to the economy by 2035. Whether this comes to fruition remains to be seen, but that’s a lot of potential investment that the leasing industry could play a part in.
But, is the leasing industry ready? I’ve no doubt that when the time comes, the leasing industry will keep abreast of the changes that a driverless economy will bring. The leasing industry is well known for its ability to evolve, adapt and cope, but it remains to see whether other areas of the motoring industry will be able to adapt in a similar way.
Take electric vehicles as one example. At UK Carline, we’ve already added a number of electric cars to our offering, and we’re seeing fleet managers increasingly considering electric and hybrid vehicles as a viable option.
Even just ten years ago, the thought of charging your car rather than filling it with petrol or diesel seemed like a crazy idea, but look where we are today. The use of electric cars is fast becoming a very attractive option for drivers, but we’re getting to a point where issues such as a lack of charging points and a limited range of vehicles, are holding back the potential growth of the electric vehicle market.
I believe the same thing could happen with driverless vehicles. Leasing companies may be ready to sell them – but can our current systems and infrastructure support it?
With everyone from insurance companies to dealerships having to adapt to a radically different type of vehicle, it may be a long time before the wider motoring industry is truly on board with a driverless landscape.
We also shouldn’t underestimate public perception, and drivers’ willingness to get on board with these new technologies. The change in attitudes to electric vehicles took time, and so too, will it take time to change people’s perceptions about owning a driverless car.
The biggest hurdle the leasing industry faces when it comes to driverless cars could be public attitude – we might be ready for a driverless future but are our drivers?
I believe there’s a long way to go before the public is totally ready to embrace autonomous vehicles, but the announcement in the Budget takes us a step closer towards the technology that could revolutionise our industry.
We might not be quite ready to take our hands off the wheel completely, but there is no doubt that a driverless future is coming, and the leasing industry needs to be ready for it.