UK lags behind Europe in adopting driverless car tech

As trials for driverless vehicles take place around the world, Britons have been slow to buy cars with semi-autonomous features

Britons lag behind their European peers when it comes to adopting semi-autonomous technology in their vehicles, despite the Government’s attempt to put the UK at the forefront of the driverless car revolution.

Just 19pc of Ford cars sold in the UK in the last year were fitted with parking assistance technology, compared to one in three cars sold across Europe, according to Ford Car Buying Trends 2015.

As many as 72pc of cars sold in Switzerland came equipped with Active Park Assist, which uses sensors to guide the vehicle’s steering system into a parking space, while six in 10 cars bought in the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Germany incorporated this feature.

Of the 22 countries featured in the report, just five were less willing than the UK to purchase vehicles with semi-autonomous driving tools.

In July, the Government launched a £20m research and development fund dedicated to testing driverless cars, as part of the £100m committed in this year’s Budget to researching “intelligent mobility”.

This followed the establishment of the world’s first code of practice in the UK, developed by the Department of Transport, allowing Britain to start testing driverless cars in Bristol, Coventry, Milton Keynes and Greenwich in south-east London.

Google unveils first 'fully functional' driverless car. The internet giant posted a picture online of the white, bubble-shaped car, the most complete self-driving vehicle it has yet put together Google’s driverless car, unveiled in December 2014  Photo: Google/EPA

The global autonomous vehicles industry, which has seen Google and Apple compete with traditional automakers, is expected to be worth £900bn by 2025, boosting the UK economy to the tune of £51bn by 2030.

However, the Ford report suggests that British drivers have not yet embraced technological steps towards autonomous vehicles.

While more than half of Ford cars bought in Europe in the last year were fitted with Adaptive Cruise Control, allowing cars to maintain a constant distance behind the vehicle in front even if it is travelling at a slower speed, just 42pc of British buyers opted for this feature.

Turkey was the biggest adopter of speed control, with 86pc of cars bought in the last year including this technology, followed by Finland with 84pc, Sweden with 79pc and France, the Netherland and Switzerland with 75pc.

ATNMBL is a concept vehicle for 2040 designed by Mike & Maaike ATNMBL is a concept vehicle for 2040 designed by Mike & Maaike  Photo:

While 13pc of cars sold across Europe in the last year came with Active City Stop, which automatically applies the brakes if a driver does not react to traffic ahead – rising to nearly 60pc in Sweden and Norway – just 3pc of drivers in the UK bought a car with this feature.

The report also found that 3pc of cars bought in Britain had Lane Keeping Aid, a tool that alerts drivers if they veer outside their lane, compared to 51pc in Sweden, 28pc in Norway and 21pc in Switzerland.

“While manufacturers including Ford are working toward autonomous vehicles, our customers are already embracing many of the smart technologies that make driving and parking easier and safer,” said Roelant de Waard, European vice president of marketing, sales and service at Ford.

“We are seeing increasing demand for features that relieve the stresses of driving, and make it more enjoyable. For example, people have very quickly become accustomed to systems that help them to find a suitable parking space and reverse into it.”

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