Driving to a safer future

Neil Brown

Government figures show that more than 27,000 people were killed or seriously injured on UK roads over the 12 months to the end of June 2017, with more than 176,000 incidents in total.

While the situation has been improving over the long term – even against rising traffic levels this number is still too high and the United Nations has goals to halve the number of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020.

We believe active safety technologies are already playing a role in bringing this number down and represent our best hope of significant further reductions. With this in mind, we welcome the Chancellor’s support in the recent Autumn Budget for the UK’s autos industry, a sector where we have a long and proud heritage and need to invest for future growth.

Philip Hammond has set out plans to have fully driverless cars without a safety attendant in use by 2021, with developers allowed to apply to test these vehicles on UK roads. In his Budget speech, Hammond confirmed £500 million in funding for the electric and driverless sector, with £100 million to extend the grant for motorists buying plug-in cars and a further £400 million to develop the electric charging infrastructure.

“Our future vehicles will be driverless but they’ll be electric first. And that’s a change that needs to come as soon as possible,” the Chancellor said.

Indicating growing momentum behind this sector, Uber has also struck a deal to buy 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo, while Waymo – the driverless car developer spun out of Google’s parent company Alphabet – has begun testing vehicles without a safety driver.

Core components of driverless cars, namely cameras, sensors, on-board computers and electrification, have emerged rapidly in recent years and can now be found fully operational in a wide range of vehicles.

Improving auto safety is one of the key themes of the Liontrust Sustainable Investment team and we invest in a number of companies benefiting from moves towards electrification and better vehicle safety.

Most of these new components require a significant increase in the semi-conductor material in a vehicle and companies such as Infineon Technologies and Valeo are leading players in this market. On average, there is £230 of semi-conductor content in a traditional internal combustion engine car but this trebles to around £700 for a fully electric vehicle.

In addition to the employment opportunities emerging directly in the driverless cars industry, there are potentially significant opportunities down the road through the more efficient use of travel time. This could change where we live, work and holiday, raising the prospect of more balanced growth away from congested urban centres.

We are excited by a vision of the future in which safer cars with electrified drive chains, supported by a nationwide charging infrastructure powered by renewables, can get us where we need to go safer, faster and more comfortably.


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Monday, December 18, 2017, 12:06 PM