Now is the time to act

John Bradburn | 16 Sep 2015 | Comments

There’s no denying that Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) are coming. Lower levels of autonomous capability can already be seen in cars available today – such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping. But no-one really knows yet how long it will before highly autonomous vehicles are on our roads and how much time we have to benefit from their development.

We’re in a global race to exploit the economic opportunities provided by CAVs, from the intellectual property generated in the design of such vehicles, to their testing, validation and production. With our strong automotive heritage and history of innovation, the UK should be trailblazing the development of CAVs and reaping the economic rewards. The UK government’s Code of Practice for the testing of autonomous vehicles and ongoing CAV trials across the country – including VENTURER in Bristol, mean we are in a good starting position. But more must be done to build on this competitive advantage to ensure the UK benefits economically from the development of CAVs, before time beats us and we lose out in this global race.

Now is the time for greater investment to exploit the growth potential of this emerging industry. The UK must maximise the opportunities that regulation currently provides and aggressively target market growth in the areas of testing and validation. We must work to understand what society expects from CAVs, the expectations of different user groups and the challenges that will emerge in their adoption. Beyond this, we need to understand what CAVs will mean for the transport system as a whole and the opportunities they provide to deliver a more seamless travelling experience through journey management. In terms of mobility, we must also understand the opportunities provided to broaden travel horizons for those with limited mobility – such as the elderly, infirm and the young.

Alongside this, our cities must work to understand how CAVs will impact upon them – from changing travel behaviours to capacity management and vehicle emissions. They must also take action to prepare for the arrival of CAVs, by developing their highway and digital infrastructure – such as installing the infrastructure to support connected vehicle technologies – and ensuring they have a resilient and secure cyber network. At the same time, companies must look to how they can exploit this opportunity and develop new operating models to reap the reward.

Now is the time to act. We must continue to invest in CAV research and development and ensure we are best prepared for their arrival in order to maximise the opportunities this new technology brings.

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