Driving automation

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, the U.K.’s finance minister, appears determined to make Britain a leader in automation technology, with the aim of putting fully driverless cars on the road by 2021.

“Some would say that’s a bold move, but we have to embrace these technologies if we want the U.K. to lead the next industrial revolution,” he told the BBC on Sunday.

Facing an uncertain future amid complicated Brexit negotiations and sluggish growth, Theresa May’s Conservative government’s investment plan demonstrates the tech sector’s importance in keeping the U.K. competitive.

Stan Boland, CEO of autonomous technology developer FiveAI, told CNBC on Monday that the U.S. is currently ahead of the U.K. in terms of fully autonomous vehicles, and British companies are working to catch up. According to Hammond’s budget outline, a new AI start-up is founded every week in the U.K.

“The U.K. has built up excellent academic expertise in the fields of computer vision and artificial intelligence, both essential components to autonomous vehicle technology, with several of the top global research groups located within U.K. institutions,” Boland said. But, he added: “Keeping that talent in the U.K. and focusing enough of it on the automotive space is a serious challenge.”

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