The future is now...

John McCarthy | 17 Jul 2015 | Comments

..for connected and autonomous vehicles. It’s been a busy time since Atkins was announced as the lead partner for Venturer; the Innovate UK funded autonomous vehicle consortium based in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. As I put the finishing touches to the whitepaper ‘Roads of the Future’ it is worthwhile reflecting on the growing interest in this emerging market.

People are really interested in connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs). The elderly, vulnerable, taxis, buses, freight, hire cars, insurance, communications, police, you and I, will all be influenced by the introduction of CAVs. Whether that is to share information between cars about incidents along routes or bad weather warnings, or to click a button and a car will drive you to your local bingo as you read the paper; the future is now and that is why people find it so fascinating.

I was recently invited to share my thoughts at Bristol’s Venturefest festival, and the following day invited into the Transport Systems Catapult’s ImagineFest festival to discuss what CAVs means from a policy and strategy perspective. Venturer aims to establish an independent urban test facility for the testing of elements associated with the deployment of CAV. This includes understanding peoples’ perception, not just technology or data; and exploring what people will get from CAVs, why will they want to use it, what must they accept and what will they not change. People drive change and it is vital that those in the CAV space fully understand this and reach out to test areas like Venturer to really grasp what it means for the future of their businesses.

Though an electrical engineer by qualification, I’ve been delighted to present at a number of Institute of Civil Engineer (ICE) meetings. It’s been really interesting hearing what people think and feel about connected and autonomous capability. The feedback has been amazing and lots of people are very keen to know when it will all happen and how it will link pieces of the transportation puzzle together. I also presented at the SMMT forum a little while back, and if you’re really interested, check out the video (best bits at 3:02 and 6:05)

I am also thrilled to be taking part in a BBC based STEM initiative later this month in Bristol. It is vital that people are encouraged to think about how the application of maths and engineering can enable world changing initiatives. The skills of this new world are yet to be defined, but encouraging the next generation to imagine a world where they are the designers, the creators, the developers of approaches and technology to a CAV based world is critical.

On the regulatory and policy front I’ve been delighted to share my thoughts on the new Code of Practice that the Department for Transport will publish. The approach is to position Britain at the forefront of CAV testing by providing a non-restrictive but sensible approach to testing. This will lead to significant job growth and IP creation.

It’s been a very busy time as the market responds to the challenges and opportunities that CAV provides and looks to leaders such as Atkins to provide thought leadership and direction. America, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Sweden are all looking to become the world’s testing ground for CAVs. Britain cannot afford to be content with what it has done to date. It must continue to invest and grow the test capability for connected and autonomous vehicles. The future is now, we must reach out and grasp the opportunities that it creates!

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