‘The Chancellor hasn’t a clue whether autonomous cars will be a hit or a miss’

Mike Rutherford argues that the Government’s plans for autonomous cars are out of touch with reality

Seems a decent man, Philip Hammond. But can anyone remember anything he did for the motorist or the car industry from 2010-11 as Transport Secretary? Me neither.

He talked of 80mph motorway speed limits. But they didn’t materialise. Now he’s Chancellor, there are plenty of other hints from Phil, but I fear he won’t deliver.

All you need to know about autonomous cars

Take early 2017. He said enough to hint a scrappage scheme may be on the cards – which it wasn’t. Then, he put his name to an eve of Autumn Budget column in which he stated that the “dream” of driverless cars will “soon” (you sure?) become a reality. Never mind that our roads, the police, Department for Transport, insurers, courts and consumers are simply unable to accommodate, accept or afford expensive autonomous cars in the short or medium term. Yet Phil remains convinced. Ish.

“We can embrace it [driverless tech] and take full advantage of what is in front of us,” he wrote. “And my Budget will include plans to make Britain a world leader in this area.”

But, er, his Budget didn’t, really. And Britain won’t – unless it can catch the Japanese, Germans, Koreans, Americans and others who’ve been spending untold billions on driverless research and development and prototypes for decades while we’ve being doing little.

Why was Chancellor Hammond super keen on driverless cars the Sunday before his Budget, but apparently far less enthusiastic during his Commons speech the following Wednesday? Maybe he heard me on national telly and radio warning him his claim that “the driverless car industry means tens of thousands of jobs” for Britain is horribly misleading as millions of income tax-paying taxi, van, truck, bus, coach and other drivers, plus driving instructors, will be made redundant – and forced to claim unemployment benefits that, ultimately, Hammond’s Treasury coffers must fund. Socially and fiscally, that’s not clever, Phil.

And where’s his evidence that beleaguered car users actually want, feel comfortable with and are willing to pay for driverless cars that’ll cost far more to purchase and insure than those we’re happy to drive ourselves? Truth is, he hasn’t asked the motoring masses. He has no evidence. The Chancellor, like you, me and the auto industry, hasn’t a clue whether autonomous cars will be a hit or miss. Is the car that drives itself a classic example of tech chasing and trying to serve a market that doesn’t exist?

What impact will autonomous cars have on the car industry? Tell us what you think in the comments!

Recommended

'Power outages do nothing to inspire confidence in would-be EV buyers'
Opinion

'Power outages do nothing to inspire confidence in would-be EV buyers'

Mike Rutherford thinks the switch to an all-electric UK car market hasn't been thought through
29 Nov 2020
'MINI’s brand focus needs to rub off on BMW, too'
Opinion

'MINI’s brand focus needs to rub off on BMW, too'

BMW needs to regain its identity and should look to MINI for inspiration, says Steve Fowler
28 Oct 2020
'The Pop-Up Motor Show is a simple idea at precisely the right time'
Opinion

'The Pop-Up Motor Show is a simple idea at precisely the right time'

Mike Rutherford thinks the new Pop-Up Motor Show can be the perfect way to serve the demands of Britain's car users
11 Oct 2020
'The Land Rover Defender and Aston Martin DBX must be front runners for World Car Design of the Year'
Opinion

'The Land Rover Defender and Aston Martin DBX must be front runners for World Car Design of the Year'

Mike Rutherford thinks cars from Gerry McGovern and Marek Reichman are favourites to win design award
30 Aug 2020

Most Popular

New Suzuki Swace estate launched on UK market
News

New Suzuki Swace estate launched on UK market

Based on the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, the Suzuki Swace estate comes to the UK
11 Nov 2020
All-new Renault Kangoo van unveiled ahead of 2021 launch
Renault Kangoo ZE Concept - show pic
Renault Kangoo

All-new Renault Kangoo van unveiled ahead of 2021 launch

First images of the third-generation Renault Kangoo panel van - which will soon square-up to the new Volkswagen Caddy
12 Nov 2020
How to transfer a number plate from one car to another
MINI number plate change
Tips & advice

How to transfer a number plate from one car to another

Need to know how to transfer a number plate between vehicles? Our step-by-step guide breaks it down
22 Nov 2020