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U.K. Plans to Spur First Spaceport, Drones, Driverless Vehicles

May 26 2016



U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron plans a new transport law to spur everything from the country’s first spaceport to the production of drones and driverless vehicles, and to enhance protections for customers who buy holidays online.


The Modern Transport Bill would pave the way for commercial space flights from the U.K. by setting a framework for a new spaceport, the government said Wednesday in a briefing note to accompany Queen Elizabeth II’s speech in Parliament laying out Cameron’s program for government. Other measures seek to ensure insurance is available for driverless cars and to encourage investment in the development of drones.


The measures aim to reduce congestion that costs the British economy 20 billion pounds ($29 billion) a year, while boosting the country’s satellite industry and vehicle exports. Trials of driverless cars are already under way in Bristol, Milton Keynes, Coventry and Greenwich, southeast London, with plans for vehicles—both pods and cars—to drive themselves later this year.


“Modern transportation can make much much more efficient use of our roads, railways and airspace, cutting congestion, speeding up journeys for people and goods and boosting our world-leading satellite industry,” the government said. The law “will put the U.K. at the forefront of safe technology in the autonomous vehicles industry, such as drones and space planes.”


Drone Prospects


The government cited research predicting the global drone industry will surge to $123 billion in the next decade from about $4 billion currently.


The bill will also contain a provision to update the Air Travel Organizer’s License, or ATOL, the U.K.’s financial-protection program for holidays, by clarifying a 1992 law that pre-dates customers booking their holidays online, according to the document.


A separate law will give the government the legal powers it needs to construct and operate the first phase of its second high speed rail line, known as HS2. The bill would give the government planning permission to construct the line between London and the West Midlands.

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