The UK must do more to establish a clear strategy regarding autonomous vehicles (AV) to maintain its position as a global industry leader, research from KPMG suggests.

The UK currently ranks in fifth position on KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index (AVRI) behind the Netherlands, Singapore and the USA. However, the UK is ranked ahead of nations including Germany, China and Japan according to their progress and capacity for adoption of AV technology.

The UK performs well in many aspects of the ranking criteria. The country scores highly for availability of AV technology, research and development, and infrastructural capacity for innovation. The UK’s high levels of consumer acceptance are also considered in the rankings.

Sarah Owen-Vandersluis, head of transport strategy at KPMG UK, said: “The UK has shown a proactive response to the growing prominence of artificial intelligence across all industries and built a market which is conducive to accommodating the implementation of autonomics vehicles.

"Our research shows high levels of consumer acceptance, which reflects the UK’s position as an early adopter of technology.

“The Government has made great progress in recent years, but there is still more to be done.

"So far, we haven’t established what a driverless automotive system would mean for public transport and freight, nor is there a clear plan on the rollout of essential elements like charge points.

"For AVs to become a mainstream form of transport in the UK, measures to change the makeup of our infrastructure are necessary.”

The Government has been taking significant steps in recent years to boost AV development in the UK. Chancellor Phillip Hammond recently announced the commitment of £400m for the creation of charging infrastructure to support electric vehicles. Additionally, the Department for Transport has declared it legal for driverless and autonomous vehicles to be tested on public roads without extra insurance or permit requirements.

However, KPMG suggests that more action is required to define a national strategy that maintains and improves the UK’s current position. This includes significant infrastructure investment, as the index puts the UK near the bottom in terms of its 4G coverage.

Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s global head of infrastructure, added: “Planning today for an AV future is essential – it is not a question of if, but when AVs become the dominant mode of transport. 

"Embracing partnerships between government and the private sector can speed technology development, while helping ensure that application of AVs meet public policy objectives.

"Finally, it is important to engage all stakeholders – government, business, citizens – in planning for AVs. It’s not just about transportation; we need to be prepared for the impact of AVs on all aspects of our lives.”