In Depth

What does the Queen's vehicle bill mean for motorists?

Millions will be set aside in bid to make UK a world leader in transport technology

The government plans to introduce new measures to bolster the infrastructure for driverless, electric and hydrogen-powered cars as the UK sets out to become a global leader in automotive technology.

Announced during the Queen's speech, the Automated and Electric Vehicle Bill "will be introduced to ensure the United Kingdom remains a world leader in new industries, including electric cars".

The bill commits the government to improving the facilities for electric and hydrogen cars on UK roads, which it hopes will entice buyers to invest in vehicles powered by renewable sources.

It also plans to force autonomous vehicle owners to buy insurance as automakers are beginning to trial driverless cars on public roads.

Pushing for better infrastructure for EVs

Under the Automated and Electric Vehicle Bill, the government plans to build "infrastructure that supports development and also consumer uptake of electric and autonomous cars", says Autocar.

This includes measures to force "motorway services and major petrol station operators to build charging spots alongside traditional fuel pumps" to improve charging availability for electric and hydrogen-powered cars, says Engadget.

The government is investing "more than £200m in research and testing infrastructure", says the BBC, and is "hopeful that the advent of driverless cars can have a profound impact on road traffic accidents".

But one of the toughest challenges electric carmaker Tesla has had to overcome since launching its Model S in 2012 is convincing the customer that the vehicle won't "run out of juice before reaching its destination or a charging station", says BGR

This is commonly referred to as range anxiety.

Dr Ben Lane, director of electric vehicle changing company Zap-Map, told Sky News that increasing charging outlets in the UK will be "strongly welcomed" and should reduce the effect of range anxiety.

He says: "Together with more open access, it's exactly what the market needs and electric vehicle drivers will welcome this development".

Insurance for driverless cars will be mandatory

Autonomous vehicles will also need to be insured to drive on UK roads. This falls in line with existing laws for cars with conventional combustion engines.

Andy Watson, head of insurance firm Aegis UK, told Insurance Business that the bill would be appreciated by both drivers and insurers.

He says: "The technology is rapidly developing and it is important that the law keeps pace to allow its testing and eventual adoption on UK roads.

"The economic, safety and societal benefits of automated vehicles are clear and we will work with transport ministers and parliamentarians to ensure the legislation is robust and fit for purpose."

Last year, Business Insider reported that "one of the biggest benefits of autonomous cars will be improved safety" as the majority of driverless systems feature driver aids such as automatic emergency braking and software to keep drivers in their lane.

The sensors on these vehicles are so advanced that they could have faster reaction times than human drivers and would therefore be safer, argues the website.

But if an incident does happen while a car is in an autonomous mode, Wired says insurers could "attempt to recover costs from the manufacturer" as it would theoretically be the vehicle's computer that caused the accident – not the driver.

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