The SMMT says the UK is the world’s number one location for mass-market potential of connected and autonomous vehicles, with an estimated GBP62bn annual economic opportunity by 2030.

A new report, commissioned for the SMMT and carried out by consultants Frost & Sullivan, also says there would be massive safety benefits as driver assistance and self-driving tech could prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives in the UK over next decade.

Further, it says there would be a lifestyle boost for commuters as greater productivity and faster journeys give drivers back a full working week every year.

The SMMT says the UK is in a particularly strong position to capitalise, with more than GBP500m already committed by industry and government to autonomous vehicle R&D and testing. The UK is home to four major AV test beds and three additional sites focused on highways, rural and parking, with more than 80 collaborative R&D projects underway.

The SMMT notes that advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) such as Autonomous Emergency Braking and Collision Warning are already available on the majority of new cars registered in the UK.

Combined with the gradual introduction of automated vehicles from 2021, this will deliver considerable safety benefits and create 420,000 new jobs, including in the automotive industry and other sectors such as telecoms and digital services.

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The report says the UK is already ahead of global rivals in its readiness to commercialise self-driving technology. The report ranks the UK above other major automotive countries, including Germany, US, Japan and South Korea as a global destination for the mass rollout of AVs.

To realise the potential, however, the SMMT says conditions must be right, and sustained support from government will be vital – particularly if the ambition to get autonomous vehicles on to UK roads by 2021 is to be met. The report’s key recommendations for government include updating road traffic laws, improving 4G coverage across all road networks, encouraging local authorities to work with industry to implement urban mobility services and influencing future harmonisation of international regulations to ensure these new vehicles can operate seamlessly between the UK and abroad.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The UK’s potential is clear. We are ahead of many rival nations but to realise these benefits we must move fast.”

Sarwant Singh, Senior Partner and Head of Mobility, Frost & Sullivan, said: “The UK already has the essential building blocks – forward thinking legislation, advanced technology infrastructure, a highly skilled labour force, and a tech savvy customer base – to spearhead AV deployment over the next decade.

“However, it will require sustained and coordinated efforts by all key stakeholders, especially the government, to realise the significant annual economic benefits forecast for the UK from AV deployment by 2030 and drive the vision of safe, convenient and accessible mobility for all.”