Driverless cars have been hailed as having many benefits for the UK, including creating 37,300 jobs by 2035. However, a new report carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) and self-driving startup StreetDrone, highlighted the skills gap may undermine the UK’s ambitions to be a leader in autonomous technology.
The study followed on from the Transport Systems Catapult saying the transport sector needed to invest more in intelligent mobility or risk other countries taking the lead in the market by 2030.
The government is pushing for change, with Chancellor Philip Hammond pledging fully driverless cars would be on the road by 2021. The number of jobs in driverless cars is predicted to rise by 9.6% annually from 2020. Yet, enrolments onto the right degree courses has only increased by 2% and apprenticeships by 3.9%. This suggests at the current rate of growth there won’t be enough young people coming out of education to meet the demand.
CEBR economist Pablo Shah said “annual enrolments onto relevant university degrees and apprenticeships are rising steadily, with around 200,000 entries into computer science, information technology, engineering or manufacturing degrees or apprenticeships.”
“However, if annual enrolments continue to increase at the current rate, they are unlikely to keep up with the expected surge in demand for technical skills that will be generated by the emergence of the connected and autonomous vehicle sector, and more broadly by the growth of fields such as artificial intelligence and big data.”
Adding to the skills gap is the fact there are only three undergraduate degrees for the industry and all of them are at the University of Salford. Researchers have called for more self-driving technology courses to be introduced to universities.
StreetDrone MD Mike Potts said “if Britain is to be one of the best places in the world to develop, test and sell connected autonomous vehicles, we need more of the brightest brains studying the subject – at present we’re heading for a colossal skills shortage.”