This year could be a significant one for motorists. Not only does 2018 bring with it plenty of legislative changes, including amendments to MOT and car tax rules, it will also see a shift towards new technologies, with electric and connected cars slated to be more popular than ever.
A number of changes to the driving test were introduced last year, including the fact that 2018 will see many learners venturing onto the motorway for the first time.
‘Learner drivers will only be allowed on UK motorways under the tutelage of registered instructors in a vehicle with dual controls,’ explains Tim Shallcross (@tim_shallcross), head of technical policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists (@IAMRoadSmart).
‘Motorways are statistically the safest roads in the country, but it seems a large proportion of learner drivers feel nervous about joining the motorway after passing their tests. This new legislation will hopefully help create safer drivers,’ he adds.
In May this year, around 500,000 cars registered before 1970 will become exempt from an MOT.
Experts believe the age limit still largely includes classic vehicles that are owned and cared for by enthusiasts, meaning the change shouldn’t make the UK’s roads any less safe.
‘People with classic cars typically look after them much more than the average car owner,’ says Tim.
‘The current MOT is increasingly irrelevant to classic cars as it focuses on emissions tests and a safety system analysis that cars of a certain vintage simply don't possess.’
There simply aren't many cars registered before 1970 that would be cheap to buy, run and maintain by those thinking of abusing the new legislation.
‘Our advice is to book a regular MOT nonetheless,’ suggests Tim. ‘It’s one of the cheapest and most thorough safety checks and it will reveal potential problems before they develop into something more costly.’
The government attempted to simplify the VED (Vehicle Excise Duty) tax banding system in 2017, increasing first-year payments alongside the vehicle’s CO2 output. A flat fee was required thereafter, differing slightly depending on the car’s fuel source.
Meanwhile, owners of a new car or motorhome with a list price of more than £40,000 have to pay an extra £310 a year for the first five years of ownership.
In April 2018, those bands are going to change once again. Any new diesel-powered cars that don't meet Euro 6 standards under real-world testing will be penalised further, so new car buyers will have to be aware of the potential extra running costs.
For example, cars with CO2 emissions of between 131-255g/km will see their first-year VED rates increase by at least £300 – a sizable additional sum if you’re buying a car.
‘According to Philip Hammond, around two million cars will be subject to the new VED band jump,’ says Tim, ‘but, in reality, only cars that emit nothing from the tailpipes, such as electric or hydrogen vehicles, stand to avoid the annual charge.’
It would be natural to assume, then, that many new car buyers will be sprinting out to invest in an electric vehicle, yet uptake is still relatively slow.
That could be about to change.
James Day (@James_A_Day), a technology writer and expert on tech trends, claims that new models from known manufacturers will help tempt buyers into zero emissions vehicles.
‘The new Nissan Leaf is a very enticing proposition,’ he says. ‘With a range of up to 235 miles, plenty of cutting-edge tech on board, improved comfort features and a sub-£25k price tag, the upcoming model should convince more buyers to embrace the new tech.’
Charging stations are popping up around the country, making electric cars more cost effective, and manufacturers are addressing safety issues that electric cars have – although they are, in general, already as safe as combustion engine vehicles.
If you’re a bit of a techno-sceptic, that headline might scare you – but fret not, we’re still a long way from having fully autonomous cars grace the UK’s roads.
Legislation still proves a stumbling block for many automotive manufacturers, despite the technology being in place and ready. But it is edging ever closer.
‘Audi has really pushed things forward in the world of self-driving cars and the 2018 A8 model will be among the first vehicles on sale to achieve what the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) deems Level 3 autonomy,’ explains James.
‘This means that drivers can use the new Traffic Jam Pilot system, which takes over driving duties in traffic at speeds of up to 37mph, and interact with the on-board infotainment systems.
‘It's the first time some drivers will be able to email, catch up on news and even watch TV shows while the car is moving – although Audi is only going to roll out the technology in countries where it is permitted, such as Germany.’
For those drivers who don’t have a classic car in the garage, and aren’t looking to buy a new car, 2018’s biggest change could be keeping an eye out for learners on the motorways. But there is a suggestion that new technology trends could cause a gear shift in the types of vehicle seen on the roads.