The chancellor has unveiled a flurry of digital and technological investments that total more than £500m in the hope of putting Britain at the “forefront of a technological revolution”.

Philip Hammond’s autumn budget has pledged more than half a billion pounds for a series of projects which will focus on improvements in broadband, 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and electric and driverless vehicles, which Hammond wants to see on the roads by 2021. Hammond said the government was “investing in Britain’s future” and it was crucial that Britain became a “dynamic and innovative economy”. Among the announcements was £400m for a network of electric car charging points – a combination of public and private investment, £100m to boost the purchasing of clean cars, £160m for 5G mobile networks and £75m for AI.

Hammond said: “Our future vehicles will be driverless, but they’ll be electric first. That’s a change that needs to come as soon as possible. And I can confirm today that we will clarify the law so that people who charge their electric vehicles at work will not face a benefit-in-kind charge from next year.”

The £400m investment in electric vehicles is follows last month’s announcement of a new bill that could force petrol and service stations by law to install charging points for electric and hybrid vehicles. The investment will look to increase the current 4,500 charging stations around the UK. In a show of support for electric vehicles, the government said that one in four cars owned by central government departments will be electric by 2022. Today’s announcement has been welcomed by the industry.

Bram Miller, technical director at Ramboll Environ, said: “We welcome the government’s £400m investment in charging infrastructure, the £100m plug-in car grant and a further £40m for research into charging for electric cars and their overall commitment to work towards driverless vehicles. We feel that if this investment is targeted intelligently, with the right technology in the right locations, it can not only improve air quality but also contribute to reducing carbon emissions and noise pollution. Electric vehicles will bring significant new demand for electricity – so the plan to proliferate charging points around the country must be carefully considered to make sure that these points are properly distributed.”

While the investment has been widely seen as a much-needed injection, industry leaders want the government to build upon commitments to infrastructure improvements.

Nick Smee, chief executive of UK-based infrastructure asset management firm Yotta, said: “Research figures from TRL, the future of transport research body, have revealed that 300,000 electric vehicles are expected to be on the roads by 2020, so it is crucial that the government builds on its existing commitments to upgrade our infrastructure. With this in mind, I’d also like to see the speeding up and rollout of faster, higher capacity communications networks to allow the rapid deployment of smart devices, enabling better connectivity across the network. This in turn will provide greater visibility to national and local government of the condition of their infrastructure assets and lead to better, more efficient asset management practices.

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