How important is government funding for self-driving cars? The answer from the Obama administration is apparently “Very!”
With the recent US announcement of a proposed $4 billion budget for the planning and development of self-driving vehicles, the ante has been raised in the international quest for autonomous transportation.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the huge US treasury outlay is earmarked for setting up and harmonizing autonomous driving rules at the federal and state level. The money will also be used to develop the software and hardware to allow vehicles to talk to each other (V2V) and to transportation infrastructure (V2I), such as traffic lights, signs and congestion monitors.
According to Anthony Foxx, U. S. Secretary of Transportation and the driving force behind the new initiative, self-driving vehicles can save time, lives and fuel. In a gesture to the economic advantages he sees from the new technology, he added that “We are bullish on automated vehicles”.
UK Had an Early Lead
Coming after UK’s pledge of £100 million ($145 million) for self-driving vehicles (to be matched by another £100 million from private industry), the proposed outlay is a huge boost to the viability and credibility of the new industry. The UK funding came after an earlier pledge of £19 million and initial planning for driverless technology at Milton Keynes and other British locations.
Statista.com Data Analysis Shows Investment Gap
According to data released by the German market analysis firm of Statista.com, the hefty amounts of national spending announced by the US and UK put these countries at a relative advantage in the autonomous arena. For example, while Germany and the USA have identical “AV Index” values (a measure of how important the autonomous vehicle is to the national economy), the US’s declared budget of $4 Billion is vastly ahead of Germany’s zero-planned expenditures for 2016:
Of course, this analysis does not include other “soft” budgetary outlays, such as improved regulatory environments and changes to infrastructure — changes that will speed the development of the technology by private industry. Still, insofar as government leadership can clear the path for new industries, the governments of Germany, Sweden, Japan, France and China may wish to look to the US and UK for autonomous investment guidance.