The UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises do not believe driverless cars will be a feature of our roads by 2021, with the transport and haulage sector particularly uncertain, new research from Close Brothers Asset Finance reveals.

The latest quarterly Close Brothers Asset Finance Business Barometer (965 respondents) shows that only 31 per cent of SMEs in the UK expect to see widespread use of driverless vehicles, falling to 21 per cent in the transport sector.

“The government has ambitious plans to invest in the sector,” said Neil Davies, CEO, Close Brothers Asset Finance. “But what our research shows is that the jury is, in effect, still out, for most business owners.”

Threat or opportunity?

The prospect of driverless cars is currently seen as neither a threat nor an opportunity for most businesses, with 52 per cent being neutral on the issue. Transport SMEs; however, are more likely to feel threatened than those in other sectors

Q: Is the prospect of driverless cars a threat or opportunity for businesses?
Threat17 per cent31 per cent
Opportunity31 per cent27 per cent
Neither52 per cent42 per cent
Until there is more progress made on autonomous vehicle technology, there is going to be a natural scepticism among business owners about the likelihood of the widespread use of driverless cars,” said Neil.

Future impact

Only 9% of business owners expect their business to be impacted by driverless cars, while 69 per cent don’t expect any change; the remaining 23% feel it’s too early to tell.

Q: Will your business be impacted by driverless cars?
Yes9 per cent5 per cent11 per cent6 per cent21 per cent26 per cent
No69 per cent82 per cent61 per cent74 per cent53 per cent45 per cent
Too early to tell23 per cent13 per cent29 per cent20 per cent26 per cent29 per cent

“Despite the lack of expected impact, 76 per cent of firm owners see them as an inevitability – but only in the long-term,” said Neil. “Only 10 per cent feel they will never be seen on the roads.”


Roughly a third (30 per cent) of those surveyed are of the opinion that driverless cars will have a positive impact on productivity while 38 per cent are of the opposite view; the remaining 32 per cent are unsure.

Q: Will driverless cars lead to an increase in productivity?UK
Yes, because it frees people up to work on the move15 per cent
Yes, because it allows people to sleep on the commute and come to work refreshed15 per cent
No, because people won't consider the commute part of working hours25 per cent
No, because people won't be as connected as they are in the office13 per cent
Don't know32 per cent