John McCarthy

UK & Europe

Dr. John McCarthy has nearly 20 years’ experience working across a variety of sectors and industries in delivering leading edge technical solutions for public private and academic bodies. Within intelligent mobility, John is responsible for both ‘Journey Management’ – seamless and unified journey choices and ticketing, and ‘Roads of the Future’, focusing on connected and autonomous vehicles.

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Google cars are after covering millions of miles, the UK Government has announced a second round of winners in their £20m competition, test sites are springing up around the world (M-City, ZAVI, Bristol, etc), platooning and connected trucks and cars are being tested on real roads in real conditions ( The world of fantasy is now real and it’s worth looking at some of the positives and negatives that this throws up. 

Google car has been involved in over twice the amount of accidents than normal cars, but in an alarming examination of the facts, it can be seen that the accidents are caused by car’s rear ending it as it looks to obey the rules of the road. Rules and the human interpretation of them, such as when to cross a white line, or the ‘aggression index’ as others call it, has not been mapped to the car’s behaviour. In fact, caution is the operating principle. Isn’t it surprising that by following the rules, being cautious and looking to make safety the prime focus, even more accidents are caused by humans, you and I, looking for the Google car to move in a more imaginative and potentially dangerous way…. 

Insurance is another aspect of this world, with announcements from Volvo that it would cover all accidents involving autonomous vehicles. That cannot be underestimated. A car company is now looking to be an insurance provider. The business models are changing and the ‘new world’ of data and information forces car manufacturers to adopt a different approach to client creation. Recent announcements highlight the fact that local authorities are examining the value in having a central white line. This has an impact on all vehicles but what might it mean for autonomous vehicles, both in terms of the technology used to guide their systems, but also the calculation of insurance? Decisions taken today have an impact on the rate, the scale and the investment needed around this new sector.   

Opening up the impact and the ecosystem around autonomous vehicles, the use of shared services in autonomous mode is becoming increasingly more prevalent in discussions. Take the recent investment ($500m) by GM in the car sharing provider Lyft. This shows that the landscape and the delivery channel to the customer is going to be completely different. The autonomous car, and its close cousin the connected vehicle, are part of that Mobility as a Service solution and transport jigsaw. Mention of the connected vehicle throws up an interesting and a very pressing question. What should road authorities do now in order to take advantage of the future? The answer is that cities and authorities must start now to understand the business case around infrastructure deployments to take advantage of the vast realms of data that will be travelling in and around the vehicles. 

And what about the very near future, what will it entail? My prediction for 2016 is twofold: firstly, I firmly believe that people will become increasingly interested in the ‘converging marketplace’, where connected and autonomous and Internet of Things look to create a digital ecosystem and service layer. The second, and this is vital for the network operators, is that cities and Government will create harmonised policies and long term strategies around connected and autonomous vehicles and the value chains that they enable. 

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UK & Europe,

They’re coming. Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) are on their way. But there are lots of questions around their use and their value. Are we afraid of their arrival and should we be? The simple answer is no, but the fact of the matter is that we need to better understand what CAVs can offer us, and more importantly, we need to TRUST them. To get to that point, wouldn’t it make sense to have a way of validating the components and the systems around connected and autonomous vehicles so that we know how good they really are? Doesn’t it make sense to independently verify performance and have a real benchmark around the behaviours of CAVs? Ignoring the technology, isn’t it sensible to reach out to people, you and I, in order to understand what the real life concerns around CAV deployments actually are and come up with a solution that matches demand with supply?

Security is another huge question. A lot of questions and unknowns must be resolved before confidence in CAVs are established. How safe is a CAV from a cyber-attack, and how would you even know it is happening and if you did, what would you do about it? That is a question that must be answered not just by the owner, but by the cities and insurers also. The importance of monitoring cyber security across the physical and virtual network is paramount. The ability to assess, detect, counter, and survive a cyber-threat must be fundamental principles of operation, not just for CAV but across the whole digitisation of services. In order to get to that point and maintain a high level of confidence requires an understanding of how the physical and virtual world exist now and in the future and how your organisation is prepared to address this.

From a cities perspective, it’s also important to think about how CAVs can become part of the business as usual activities around network management. Imagine being able to tap into all that intelligence that will flow around one of these super computer on wheels, and really use it in a way that transforms network strategies and capacity optimisation. How can this be done in a way that links the old world with the new? How can this transition occur and who will take the lead? Again, from a customer experience, imagine the CAV being a virtual friend to the traveller, helping them and making their journey stress free. It really is a game changer and the opportunities are huge. But we have to get the fundamentals right.

What’s your angle?

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UK & Europe,

..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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UK & Europe,

Traffic Management, Network Management, Network outcomes, Transport Operations, Smart Travel – our world is flooded with terms, often conflicting and often confusing. That said, I believe it is important to introduce another unifying term to the conversation, Journey Management.

Journey Management must be the umbrella term that covers all of the above, linking the person, the mode of transport, their ticketing needs and the traffic authority together. But what does this really mean and how is it different?

Journey Management is a “system of systems” approach to creating an ambient and responsive capability across all of the different journey types and users. Technology provides the capability, but people and their tailored needs and requirements must be placed at the heart of everything we do. Scenarios where freight management schedules are linked to traffic light adaptions, dynamic priority combined with electric vehicles, automatically responsive junctions to dynamic loading, including cycle and pedestrian priority, are all either possible or in the early stages of implementation. Journey Management will help to achieve this.

Interoperability, long used as a term for technical discussion is just as important now but from a different perspective. Services delivered for people, places and goods will need to be truly interoperable.

Journey Management is made up of three key linked area, namely the traffic authority and its network control, a collaboration hub between public and private bodies and thirdly, and often forgotten is customer experience, i.e. the ability to use mobile ticketing, link to their social or personal needs etc. Far too often companies and authorities focus on just one area but it is clear, for a sustainable and scalable service to be provided, a solution for one of these areas cannot be delivered without consideration of the other two. It should not matter whether you are walking, cycling, driving, managing the network, delivering goods etc., the journey and all of its parts must operate together. Obviously this is no easy task and in turn it creates new business models and opportunities around the provision of ‘services’.

For example, automobile companies such as BMW have stated that their business model is changing and they look to be considered in the future as a Mobility Provider, not just a maker of automobiles, and are actively looking at ways to offer complete intermodal journey management as a service.

Ticketing, and the capability offered through services such as ApplePay, is on the cusp of changing to a mobile centric environment, which brings with it the ability to combine various data sets and applications together under a single umbrella of journey management.

However, it is clear that no one technology or sensor will be capable of delivering a multimodal and comprehensive end to end solution. Instead, a suite of technologies and sensors, both fixed and virtual will be at the heart of its operation. Traditional silos of data can now be broken down allowing information to flow more freely. Advances in systems architecture and back end integration allow for analysis and crunching vast amounts of data in real time.

People, whatever their mode and whatever the reason behind their journey, will benefit by having personalised and intelligent information (current and predictive) available at the touch of the button. Welcome to the world of Journey Management!

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