Budget: Britain to have driverless cars by 2021

Chancellor Phillip Hammond
Chancellor Phillip Hammond


CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond is to an­nounce £75 million funding for Artificial Intelligence and plans to put driverless cars on UK roads by 2021 in his budget speech on Wednesday (22).

Hammond was set to announce regulation changes to allow Britain’s driverless car in­dustry, which the government estimates will be worth £28 billion by 2035, to get cars on the road within as little as three years, ac­cording to extracts of the budget released by his office last Sunday (19).

“Some would say that is a bold move, but I believe we have to embrace these technolo­gies if we want to see Britain leading the next industrial revolution,” he told the BBC.

The chancellor, who is under pressure to deliver an eye-catching budget following Brexit spats with cabinet colleagues, will also announce a £400m fund for companies hop­ing to roll out electric-car charge points across the country.

People who want to buy a battery-electric vehicle will also be able to access funding as Britain attempts to move towards zero-emis­sion transport.

With a focus on tech industries, the gov­ernment is also planning to spend £75m sup­porting companies developing AI and £160m in developing 5G technology, which it be­lieves will be necessary for the mass rollout of driverless cars.

However, Hammond is likely to be judged more on his social spending policies, particu­larly on his housing policy in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster that killed 71 people.

He is expected to announce plans to build 300,000 homes every year, telling the Sunday Times that he will do “whatever it takes” to meet the target. “That’s a big step up from where we are now,” he told the BBC.

“There is no single magic bullet and it’s certainly not just about pouring money in, because if you pour money in without fixing the other elements of supply, you will simply create more house price inflation, that makes the problem worse, not better.”

“I recognise that I can’t use this budget just to trail a bunch of numbers, but must tell a story about where Britain is going,” he told the Sunday Times.

The chancellor has also come under fire for not using Britain’s low interest rates to borrow money and increase public spend­ing, particularly on wage increases for publ-ic servants.

It was a key issue in June’s general election campaign, and helped Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pull off a stunning result that saw the Tories lose their parliamentary majority.

As a result, Hammond is set to announce a pay rise for NHS nurses, while an increase announced for police and prison officers was made in September, signalling a shift away from the austerity policies that have domi­nated since the 2008 financial crash. (AFP)