By February 13, 2015EU insight

Driverless cars: coming to a road near you soon

Driverless cars might sound like a far-fetched idea from a science fiction movie, but a Government announcement this week has taken a major step which could help them become a reality. On Wednesday, the Departments for Transport and for Business, Innovation and Skills gave the go ahead for driverless cars to soon be tested on public roads.

The announcement followed a  review by the DfT which concluded that there were no legal barriers to the cars being tested on UK roads, and the Government is now developing a code of practise (due to be published in the spring) which should mean that the first tests will begin in the summer. At the same time, the Government launched a review (to be completed by summer 2017) of the current legislation which regulates roads and car maintenance to accommodate this new technology on the roads.

With the capacity to greatly improve the safety and efficiency of the UK’s road network, driverless cars are an exciting prospect and one that all technology and transport enthusiasts will no doubt be watching closely.

The Government’s announcement was covered by Jane Wakefield on BBC News.

Government initiative to lure US tech start-ups

The Government’s top tech adviser Baroness Joanna Shields launched an initiative called HQ-UK to attract American start-ups into Britain.

HQ-UK support will include fast-track visas and bank accounts, advisors and a ‘concierge’ to help manage the complexity of setting up in a new country. The scheme is UK-wide, highlighting the nationwide tech-clusters that don’t have London costs.

The UK has done a good job in attracting tech investment, and wants to compete with Ireland as leading place in Europe for firms looking to set up. Ireland’s famously low corporate tax rate is politically impossible to achieve here, but the Government hopes the UK’s larger talent pool, digital infrastructure, access to finance and Governmental support will give them the edge.

The story did the rounds in the tech and business press, with Joe Curtis writing in ITPro and Jennifer Booton for MarketWatch

Tech priorities emerging

This week “The Big Digital Debate” with the three main parties, was hosted by TechUK, in partnership with Computer Weekly and British Computer Society.

Conservative Minister Ed Vaizey MP used the acronym “SCILRGD” to structure his praise of the Government’s tech record this Parliament, with “SCILRGD” standing for skills, capital, infrastructure, leadership, regulation, GDS and data (of course…).

Labour Shadow Minister Chi Onwurah MP called for greater clarity on the Coalition’s existing policies articulating Labour’s concerns on digital inclusion and data protection. Liberal Democrat spokesman Julian Huppert MP centred his comments on the empowering nature of technological development and drew comparisons between Liberalism and the digital world, arguing that both were “all about reform”.

Writing for v3, Roland Moore-Coyler identified data privacy as one of the few controversial parts of the debate, causing particular disagreement between Vaizey and Huppert. Whilst Vaizey held that industry needed to meet politicians half way on privacy matters, Huppert said giving security agencies access to private messages would be “catastrophic” for UK businesses.

Aside from this clash, it is evident that a great deal of consensus exists amongst the parties on digital, however differences are emerging. The delineations below are far from clear cut but as a working guide…

Conservatives: skills & investment

Labour: data & inclusion

Lib Dems:  privacy & empowerment