The UK will be the best place in the world to deploy connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) over the next 10 years, provided the country avoids a 'no deal' Brexit, an automotive industry association has said.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) highlighted the UK's "forward looking regulations, such as insurance legislation for AVs, strong connected car uptake, and its significant potential for AV deployment on urban, rural and motorway operating domains" as the reasons for its projection. It had assessed the relative attractiveness of the UK as a market for deploying CAVs in comparison to the US, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Japan, France and China.

Manufacturing expert Nicole Livesey of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said: "The UK is in a unique position within Europe given its engineering and automotive heritage which is now successfully combining with its strong and vibrant tech community. Toyota’s recent decision to headquarter its Toyota Connected Europe business in the UK is a testament to this. However, the UK needs to run hard to maintain this position and eliminate any friction."

"The UK has the advantage of a common law legal system which is well used to applying legal parameters to previously unanticipated events, being able to interpret and apply the purpose of the relevant law to new circumstances. This is resulting in the various testbeds within the UK not having to wait for regulatory changes to allow their activities but to operate legally within the existing frameworks," she said.

Pinsent Masons recently published a new paper highlighting the opportunities and issues facing both incumbents and new entrants in the automotive sector as they seek to develop and commercialise CAV technologies.

In its new report, the SMMT said CAVs could deliver a £62 billion boost to the UK economy by 2030, as well as provide for thousands of new jobs, improve the safety of travel and speed up journey times. Those potential benefits, however, are at risk unless the UK leaves the EU in an orderly fashion, the trade body said.

"Clearly a ‘no deal’ Brexit would have a significant impact on the UK’s competitiveness and ability to attract future investment and skilled labour to support CAV development and deployment with further negative effects due to regulatory divergence," Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said.

According to the SMMT, improvements in broadband infrastructure are necessary to support the full potential of CAV technologies.

"The deployment of connected vehicles, as well as V2X services that complement automated driving, over the next 10 years will rely heavily on the availability of communications infrastructure (4G mobile connectivity), especially across road networks," the SMMT said in its report.

"Countries such as South Korea and the Netherlands have the highest ratings in terms of overall availability and download speeds of their 4G networks, although availability beyond urban areas still requires expansion. In the UK, the balance between overall 4G connectivity on roads and urban areas is equally distributed, with 90% coverage across motorways. However, with current coverage levels of only 58%, A and B roads require further improvement in network availability," it said.

"The expected deployment and coverage of next generation 5G networks can potentially spawn new connected vehicle services and V2X applications that complement automated driving, leading to enhanced road safety, travel efficiency, productivity and convenience," it said.

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