An extra £100 million ‘to stay ahead in the race to driverless technology’ within the UK was announced by chancellor George Osborne during the 2015 budget this afternoon.
Hailing the UK’s “brilliant automotive industry”, Osborne did not detail where exactly the money would be spent or whether it would go toward the three current driverless car projects taking place in London, Bristol and Milton Keynes at the moment.
The government already injected £19 million worth of funding into the research and development last year as part of an Innovate UK driverless car initiative.
In January, it was announced that three city councils had partnered with automotive manufacturers to test the feasibility of autonomous cars on UK roads.
Milton Keynes is working with Jaguar, Land Rover, Tata, Ford and insurance group AXA as well as Oxford and Cambridge university experts and engineering firm Arup.
Greenwich, in London, is testing an electric fuelled shuttle around its Thames peninsular and Bristol is currently trialling a driverless Bobcat on its roads.
However, the UK government's failure to set an agenda for driving technology in its transport department is at odds with Osborne's enthusiasm over driverless cars. The transport minister, Claire Perry, vetoed a safer driving initiative, eCall, that was proposed by the European Commission just last week.
Other tech highlights in the Budget today included £600 million investment in spectrum for mobile phone coverage, £40 million in Internet of Things research, a push for smart cities and improved wifi in libraries.
Osborne's wifi pledge came as BT and Barclays announced a partnership to provide free wifi to 57 libraries and 13 community centres across the country. A further ten sites, including a care home, a charity home and a homeless centre will also be provided with free wifi at a later date.
Barclays Digital Eagles, specially trained members of Barclays staff who provide free technology advice to customers and non-customers alike, will help local people build confidence and develop the skills for surfing with confidence.
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