A report published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the UK has significant advantages over other countries in pushing connected and autonomous vehicles, including forward-looking legislation allowing autonomous cars to be insured and driven on a greater proportion of roads than elsewhere.
Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the SMMT, said more than £500m had been invested in research and development by the industry and government, and another £740m in communications infrastructure to enable autonomous cars to work – “The opportunities are dramatic – new jobs, economic growth and improvements across society. The UK’s potential is clear. We are ahead of many rival nations but to realise these benefits we must move fast.”
Customer demands and expectations are changing almost as rapidly as technology is advancing and the pace is only likely to increase. Car companies are having to cope with environmental challenges, the digital revolution and emerging rivals from outside the sector.
In a recent survey by Protolabs, of 300 senior car industry executives, 52% said they believe an iconic car manufacturer will go out of business in the next three years. A similar number expect that a new entrant will bring a revolutionary type of vehicle to the market in a similar time frame.
The industry must consider options for those in positions that could soon be replaced by autonomous vehicles, such as investment in up-skilling the current workforce. Goonyella Riverside, based in Australia, are investing 40,000 hours of training to up-skill their workforce ranging from general awareness to extensive training for those interacting with autonomous haul trucks.
The speed at which vehicles are being developed is not slowing down, with the UK’s first full-sized autonomous bus given its first public demonstration in October. Self-driving vehicles will depend on a much wider range of technology than traditional vehicles, Radar, LIDAR, high-performance computer systems and advanced satellite navigation will be every bit as important as an engine and a set of wheels.
How are developments shaping and affecting the industry?
Tesla have shown that bringing a good quality vehicle to the market is not just the preserve of the traditional car companies. Others are sure to follow and, while not all will succeed, the chances of a new company making inroads into the market will be high if the industry sits on its laurels.
Dyson might have hoped it would be them but have recently had to abandon their plans to launch an electric car by 2021. Their experience shows just how tough the car industry can be to break into unless you have backers with very deep pockets.