Driverless Cars Hampered in UK by Poor 4G Mobile Broadband

autonomous driverless uk car vehicles

The latest KPMG report into the readiness of countries for the adoption of driverless cars (autonomous vehicles) has seen the United Kingdom fall two places to be ranked 7th overall, which is just behind Norway and Finland. Apparently we’re being hampered by poor infrastructure, particularly 4G mobile coverage and road quality.

The 2019 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index ranks 25 countries by four key categories of progress, including policy & legislation, technology & innovation, infrastructure and consumer acceptance. The United Kingdom actually does quite well for most of the criteria except infrastructure.

On infrastructure the UK suffers due to a high proportion of problems with potholes on small local streets and one of the lowest scores for 4G coverage. Autonomous vehicles tend to work best when they’re able to communicate with similar vehicles and modern traffic systems, but that obviously requires a mobile broadband connection and there we have a problem.

KPMG Report Statement

“The UK faces challenges concerning digital and physical infrastructure, especially since investments in this sector take time to bear fruit … It lags behind other countries in 4G coverage, global connectivity, quality of roads (especially smaller roads) and logistics infrastructure.”

Ofcom’s latest Connected Nations 2018 report found that the outdoor geographic coverage of 4G services across the UK remains painfully low at 66% (up from 43%) from all four mobile operators or 91% from at least one operator (EE), although operators are working to improve on that.

In particular the forthcoming auction of the 700MHz band will come attached to a new coverage obligation for two operators (here), which should extend outdoor data coverage to at least 90% of the UK’s entire land area and provide coverage from at least 500 new mobile mast stations in rural areas, among other things. Some operators, such as EE, are already aiming to achieve 95% geographic 4G coverage by December 2020 or a little later.

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