London mayor Sadiq Khan has come out against driverless electric cars, telling Parliament that adoption of the vehicles by Londoners could harm government tax revenues, reduce the number of cyclists – and leave questions over who would build the roads.
“A move towards new technologies like electric vehicles is likely to reduce taxation income for the government which could impact on the funding available for highway improvements,” said Khan’s joint submission, along with Transport for London (TfL), to the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill’s Parliamentary committee.
Referring to Khan’s previously published plans to force Londoners out of their cars and instead make them take buses, Tube trains and pushbikes to work, TfL insisted that “a modal shift from car use to walking, cycling and public transport use is the only way to maintain and improve our streets.”
The UK capital's transport authority, whose chairman is Khan, expressed concern that driverless car technology could encourage Londoners to give up forcing themselves onto overcrowded trains or slow-moving buses packed onto the capital’s ever-busier roads.
Most concerningly for the capital’s eight million inhabitants, TfL looks at the advent of electric vehicles as an opportunity to impose new taxes. The current Congestion Charge netted TfL a quarter of a billion pounds (£249.6m) in fiscal year 2016/17, even though drivers of cars and vans that “emit 75g/km or less of CO2” are exempt from it.
“New technologies must be considered alongside a new approach to funding roads, and the Government should give consideration to the potential of road user charging systems as a means both of funding road use and of managing demand for limited road space,” said Khan and TfL’s joint submission to Parliament.
Khan’s statements to the AEV Bill committee on the political undesirability of electric vehicles appear to be at odds with his public crusade to improve London’s air quality. Through targeted taxes, such as TfL’s recent “T-charge”, TfL both raises revenue from Londoners (the authority is due to lose its £2.8bn funding from central government) and suppresses demand from Londoners who want to drive older petrol and diesel-powered vehicles in the capital.
The AEV Bill’s public committee stage has concluded, with the bill itself now in its report stage before the House of Commons. It will enter the House of Lords next year. Interested readers can follow the bill’s progress here on El Reg. ®