Osborne's Budget to make 2017 Nissan Qashqai driverless?

Nissan has welcomed an announcement by George Osborne that it will conduct driverless cars trials on UK roads from 2017 – and reduce legislation that is currently preventing manufacturers selling autonomous cars in the UK.

As part of the 2016 Budget, the chancellor announced that it will “consult this summer on sweeping away regulatory barriers within this Parliament to enable autonomous vehicles on England’s major roads.”

It will also establish a £15 million ‘connected corridor’ between London and Dover to allow connectivity between vehicles and the road infrastructure (such as traffic lights).

Nissan, which operates a manufacturing plant in Sunderland, has previously revealed that the facelift version of its popular Qashqai (on sale from 2017) will feature piloted drive technology.

The firm describes this as “stage one autonomous drive technology that enables the car to drive autonomously and safely in a single lane in heavy traffic conditions on highways.”

It will be followed by ‘multiple-lane control’ in 2018, which will allow Nissan’s cars to negotiate hazards and change lanes, while ‘intersection technology’ (allowing cars to navigate busy junctions and urban traffic without driver intervention) will follow in 2020.

In response to the Budget Paul Willcox, Chairman of Nissan Europe, said: “Innovation is at the heart of Nissan and it’s at the heart of the UK. From the telephone and the television, to the Internet itself, British pioneers have been at the forefront of global invention since industrialisation began.

“Here, again, we are pushing the boundaries of what is possible, with our manufacturing teams in Sunderland preparing to make our first steps towards a fully autonomous drive vehicle in 2017.

“This is why we welcome the measures announced by the chancellor today. These plans will support the development and growth of autonomous vehicle technology in the UK.”

The RAC has also reacted to Osborne’s budget – welcoming a fuel duty freeze for the sixth-year running.

Chief engineer David Bizley said “motorists will be relieved that the Chancellor has not used low fuel prices as an opportunity to raise duty on petrol and diesel – but, with the government’s own evidence showing that lower fuel prices are good for the economy, we are disappointed Mr Osborne didn’t make a longer-term commitment to freeze duty beyond next year’s Budget”.

Read more about what the 2016 Budget means for motorists here.