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Could Brexit put the brakes on driverless cars?

As the UK votes to leave the European Union, many questions remain (Photo: Fotalia)

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What the EU referendum means for autonomous driving technology in the UK.

The votes are in. And Britain is out. Whilst the EU referendum ballot paper was simple – leave or stay –, the debate was complex. Over the past weeks and months, politicians, sports stars, actors and industry leaders have all been having their say on the vote, their preferred outcome and what it could mean. 

With the results announced in the city of Manchester in the early hours of June 24, many people in Europe were awake a bit earlier than normal. Among those adjusting their alarm clocks could have been a number of individuals from the UK car industry, including those focused on driverless technology. As reported in Engineering and Technology Magazine, in the run up to the vote, both Siemens and BMW had warned that a British exit from the European Union could be harmful to the future of the technology and manufacturing sector. Speaking at a conference regarding the impact of the referendum, Siemens’ UK CEO Jürgen Maier suggested that if the UK voted to leave the EU, research and development on future technologies, such as driverless cars, would in turn leave the UK.

According to Engineering and Technology Magazine, concerns were also raised about regulation. As the EU car industry continues to undergo significant legislative changes to enable the roll out of self-driving car technology, it was suggested that by voting out, the UK could become an outsider. During the conference Ian Robertson, a member of BMW’s managing board cautioned that “Britain would lose its status as a rule maker and would have to become a ‘rule taker’ because it would not have a seat at the table that is shaping the future of legislation.”

The car industry leaders also pointed out that if the transfer of components, employees and cars themselves were to face increased restrictions, the competiveness of the UK driverless car industry could also be significantly challenged.

The result of the EU referendum means many things to many people. Whether the predictions and concerns raised by the UK auto industry now become a reality remains to be seen. What was clear however was that driverless didn’t want EU-less. 

Read the Engineering and Technology Magazine article here.

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