Innovation

UK budgets $99M for AI, clears legal barriers to get driverless cars on the road by 2021

A proposed UK budget is expected to include significant funds for artificial intelligence, electric car plug in points, and 5G mobile networks.

The UK's budget, to be officially released on Wednesday, will include funding to encourage the development of driverless and electric cars, artificial intelligence (AI), and 5G mobile networks, the finance ministry announced on Sunday.

The finance ministry said that British finance minister Philip Hammond would announce regulatory changes to the driverless car industry that would allow developers to apply to test their vehicles on UK roads without human operators for the first time, according to a Reuters report detailing parts of his budget.

Hammond aims to have fully self-driving cars on UK roads by 2021. The government estimates that the driverless car industry will be worth £28 billion ($37 billion) to the UK economy by 2035, and will create 27,000 jobs.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of autonomous vehicles (Tech Pro Research)

"Some would say that's a bold move, but we have to embrace these technologies if we want the UK to lead the next industrial revolution," Hammond told the BBC last week.

The budget is also expected to include the creation of a £400 million ($529 million) Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund, which will help businesses develop charge points for electric cars across the country. Another £100 million ($132 million) is expected to be offered in grants to help people buy electric vehicles, Reuters reported.

Outside of vehicle technology, the UK plans to invest £75 million ($99 million) in the AI industry, which will include supporting start ups in the space and increasing the number of new PhD students in the field to 200 each year.

The UK has also set aside £160 million ($212 million) for the creation of next-generation 5G mobile networks across the nation, as well as £35 million ($46 million) to bring mobile connections and top-speed internet to trains, which could be a boon for business travelers in the area.

The UK's move follows that of the US government, as the US House of Representatives voted unanimously to speed the deployment of fully-autonomous cars and stop states from banning self-driving vehicles. While many questions around issues such as insurance, safety, and cybersecurity still remain for both nations, these regulatory changes suggest that the technology is indeed on its way to major roads.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. The UK's new budget is expected to include funding to encourage the development of driverless and electric cars, artificial intelligence, and 5G mobile networks,

2. The budget will also include regulatory changes to the driverless car industry that would allow developers to apply to test their vehicles on UK roads without human operators for the first time, with the goal of getting the vehicles on the road by 2021.

3. The government estimates that the driverless car industry will be worth £28 billion to the UK economy by 2035, and will create 27,000 jobs.

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Image: iStockphoto/mnbb

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About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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