Chancellor George Osborne has announced new funding for autonomous vehicle development as part of his last budget before the general election this summer.
Opening his statement, the Chancellor said he was happy to “report on a Britain that is growing, creating jobs and paying its way”.
Supporting figures that showed the UK economy grew by 2.6% last year, the fastest-growing in the world, the Chancellor said the British economy is “fundamentally stronger” than it was five years ago.
On the subject of autonomous vehicles, the Chancellor announced an extra £100 million of funding to ensure Britain “stays ahead in the race to driverless technology”. That funding will be used to both develop vehicles, as well as “the systems required to implement and adopt the technology, such as telecommunications.”
Safeguarding the continued growth of low-emission vehicles, the Chancellor also announced that company car tax rates for low-emission vehicles would rise slower than previously planned in 2019/20. Other company car tax rates will rise by 3%.
Fuel duty has again been scrapped, meaning the planned rise in September won't occur. The Chancellor said the move will save the average family £10 on the cost of filling up. "I want to make sure that the falling oil price is passed on at the pumps," he added. The move marks the longest freeze on fuel duty for 20 years.
The Chancellor also announced a raft of new measures to encourage Britain’s growing manufacturing industry, including doubling support for British companies exporting to China. “Britain's manufacturing output has grown more than four and a half times faster than it did in the entire decade before the crisis,” he said.
In order to increased what is described as a “shortage of qualified HGV drivers,” the government will also review the current HGV driving test procedure, with a view to speeding up the process.
George Osborne also praised apprenticeship schemes, saying the number of apprentices in Britain has doubled during his time in office. “We are getting the whole of Britain back to work with a truly national recovery,” he said.
Facing Prime Minister’s Questions ahead of the budget, the Prime Minister David Cameron praised Jaguar Land Rover for its continued growth and tripled turnover over the past five years, saying “manufacturing is growing again in the West Midlands, and we should be proud of that”.
Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below: