Driverless cars and fast broadband to fore in Queen’s speech

The Queen’s Speech, delivered to both Houses of Parliament today (18 May) contained proposals to smooth the path for driverless cars and to improve the provision of ‘fast’ broadband across the UK, and make switching provider easier.

Parliament

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Driverless cars

Unveiling the Modern Transport Bill, Her Majesty said: “My Ministers will ensure the United Kingdom is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles.”

The government is keen to allow innovation to flourish in the autonomous vehicles sector, keeping Britain to the fore of what is expected to be a multi-billion pound industry.

It says the main aims of the Bill would be to:

  • reduce congestion, which has been estimated to cost the UK economy £20 billion every year
  • ensure appropriate insurance is available to support the use of autonomous and driverless vehicles.

Trials of automated and driverless cars are currently taking place in Bristol, Greenwich, Milton Keynes and Coventry (The 4 Cities Driverless Car Trials). The government wants to see vehicles (cars and/or pods) driving themselves during 2016.

Irresistible momentum

Kevin Pratt, MoneySuperMarket’s consumer affairs spokesman, said: “The momentum behind the development of autonomous and fully driverless cars seems irresistible. But all concerned need to keep insurance right to the fore.

“The main problem is who would be liable in the event of an accident – the occupant of the car, or the firm that made the onboard controls and sensors?

“In the years to come, there will be a mixed fleet of vehicles on UK roads, with varying degrees of autonomy, so the industry needs to be tackling these issues as of today.

“In the long run, if driverless cars prove their ability to reduce or even eliminate accidents, we should see car insurance premiums plummet, as the risks associated with accidents account for 80-90% of premiums. Indeed, the prospect of low premiums might stimulate the public’s interest in the driverless concept. So the insurance industry must expect close scrutiny as it adapts to the driverless environment.”

For the insurance industry, James Dalton, director of policy at the Association of British Insurers, said: "Fully automated vehicles will be a safety revolution, set to reduce road accidents and make our roads safer. This is why insurers are 100% behind making driverless vehicles a reality on our roads.

“Insurers are already working on how to shape the right framework to keep insurance as simple and straightforward as possible for the future of driving."

Broadband changes

Another focus within the Queen’s speech was faster broadband speed for UK households and businesses. Here are the main features of the Digital Economy Bill:

  • Consumers and businesses would be legally entitled to have faster internet connection. Initially, a minimum speed of 10Mbps would be expected by broadband providers, but there would be a caveat that Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, could review minimum expected speeds over time.
  • Ofcom would also have the power to release data on customer complaints and broadband speed data. This aims to help consumers make informed decisions when choosing broadband providers and encourage competitive between providers themselves.
  • The Bill will also make it easier for households to switch their broadband provider. Broadband providers will be expected pick up the admin and logistics when switching, leaving consumers to only deal with their new supplier when changing over.

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