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Driverless cars could be tested on British roads by 2021

The planned rule changes could see self-driving cars tested on UK roads in 2021 Credit: PA

Driverless cars may be tested on Britain's roads within a few years under plans to be unveiled in the Budget.

Chancellor Philip Hammond hopes to give the green light to an industry the Treasury believes could support 27,000 jobs and be worth £28 billion to the economy by 2035.

He is expected to announce changes to regulations that will pave the way for self-driving cars to be tested on UK roads for the first time by 2021.

The Treasury hopes a raft of planned measures will help the UK become a world leader in the technological revolution and boost the country's lagging productivity.

Mr Hammond is expected to announce tens of millions of pounds of investment in tech industries, including artificial intelligence (AI) and a planned £160 million for next-generation 5G mobile networks.

The measures will include:

  • £75 million for artificial intelligence
  • £400 million for electric car charge points
  • £100 million to boost clean car purchases
  • £100 million for an additional 8,000 fully-qualified computer science teachers supported by a new National Centre for Computing
  • A re-training partnership between the TUC (Trade Union Congress), CBI (Confederation of British Industry) and the government
  • £76 million to boost digital and construction skills
Jeremy Clarkson said his experience in a driverless car showed the technology was 'a long way off'. Credit: PA

There were warnings over the plans from Grand Tour presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who said a recent road test in a driverless car revealed the technology was "still a long way off".

"For now, we're miles away from it," he wrote of the experience in the Sunday Times magazine.

Mr Hammond admitted that he had never personally been inside a driverless car in an appearance on the BBC's Andrew Marr show.

But he insisted that the country had to move forward with developing technology to protect Britain's prosperity and create future jobs.

Mr Hammond is hoping to boost Britain's tech sector Credit: PA

Mr Hammond's support for 5G in his upcoming budget will include testing on UK roads to help provide the network needed for driverless cars.

In addition, £35 million will be focused on giving rail passengers reliable mobile signals and "lightning speed" internet during journeys, with trials due to begin on the Trans-Pennine route, which connects Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.

Funding will also go to the National Cyber Security Centre so networks work safely and securely.

In terms of AI, the Chancellor is planning to support tech companies developing pioneering services with £20 million of investment.

There are also plans to increase the number of PhD students in this area to 200 a year.