Opinion Former Article

Efforts needed to support driverless cars

Government must take a range of measures to ensure the UK is well equipped to support the emergence of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies according to a new report.

The House of Lords Science & Technology Committee published its ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future?’ report today; setting out a number of key recommendations.

Speaking to TP Weekly News, committee chairman Lord Selborne said: “The UK has got to make a compelling offer to automotive companies and new market entrants to develop their systems here if we are to realise economic benefits.”

He said it is the Government’s role to provide the necessary infrastructure to support Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), to invest in research and skills and to act as a ‘convener’ to ensure work is not carried out in silos.

The report recommends that efforts to attract CAV manufacturers and academics to the UK should include development of one or more large scale testing environments covering real world urban and rural sites.

It adds that mobile coverage on UK roads will need to be improved to support connected vehicles and says the Government, Highways England and local transport authorities must engage with industry to ‘future proof’ new infrastructure.

Furthermore it says efforts to close the engineering and digital skills gap must continue and Government should commission a detailed cost-benefit analysis to provide a realistic indication of the economic benefits of CAVs, which are as yet unsubstantiated.

The report also argues that greater research into human behaviour around CAVs is needed to ensure they can be deployed safely.

It highlights that CAVs could lead to drivers becoming complacent and overly reliant on technology, which is a concern in emergency situations where they may react slowly to taking back control of a vehicle.

“The risk of complacency also extends to other road users who will interact with CAVs, such as pedestrians and cyclists,” the report says. “We recommend that the Government should give priority to commissioning work to understand the main social and behavioural questions relating to CAVs.”

Lord Selborne concluded: “Long term developments in CAVs have the potential to bring about transformational change to society but these changes will only take place if society is willing to both pay for and to adapt its behaviour to fit the technology.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Britain can lead the way in the development of autonomous vehicles that have the potential to transform the way we travel.

“Automated vehicles could make our roads even safer and easier to use, as well as promising new mobility for those who cannot drive. We have committed over £200M to research and development and are also changing regulations to unblock barriers to this exciting new technology.

“We will respond to this report in due course.”

 CIHT provided written evidence for the Science & Technology Committee’s inquiry into CAVs and welcomed the report's publication.

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