The way we travel is on the threshold of a major transformation. We will be able to make journeys that are safer, cleaner, more efficient and cheaper. And the catalyst for that change will be intelligent mobility (IM). In this new environment we will have access to connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and new mobility services (including super-smart ticketing).
But to see these benefits we will need sector collaboration and convergence. If this transition is managed well the rewards across society could be significant.
The pace of growth in IM is rapid: UK projects involving CAVs alone have gone from zero to 35 in just two years – boosted by £200m administered by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) - jointly funded by industry and the government.
IM means more than connecting people, goods, freight, places and services – it’s also about connecting entire industry sectors and disciplines.
Never before have so many diverse and innovative partnerships been formed. Robotics companies, utility companies, infrastructure developers, insurance brokers and charities representing disadvantaged groups are all consortium members in IM trials. Atkins is proud to be the project leader in many of these.
As we increasingly see vehicle manufacturers speeding ahead with exciting new technology to make autonomous cars a reality, a key challenge is for our core and new infrastructure to evolve at the same pace.
But if infrastructure development needs to go faster, who should be responsible for funding this acceleration? And is this role best played by government or private investors? Or perhaps both?
To deliver the benefits we all desire, it’s vital we ensure an equitable and seamless system across both physical and digital worlds. Also, existing and new infrastructure will have to keep pace with technology, future-proofing our design and delivery processes.
Recent trials show that driverless vehicles will produce unprecedented amounts of data. This exchange of information between the vehicle and infrastructure will be much larger than current systems can accommodate, so new approaches will be required to select which data needs to be transmitted and to optimise bandwidth usage. System integrity is dependent on world-class cyber protection across a diverse range of stakeholders, all with very different security requirements and approaches to data management. While some sectors, such as aviation and defence, are well established in ensuring stringent protections, other organisations have much less experience.
New guidance by The Department for Transport (DfT) means engineers developing smart vehicles will be required to toughen up cyber protection.
While there has been good progress in different industry and professional sectors working together, there remain barriers that might hinder successful collaboration. There is currently a wide array of procurement systems and a variety of data standards.
From the inside, we have probably become accustomed to dealing with the complex mix of different sectors. But customers just want their transportation system to work and have appropriate mitigation strategies in place when things go wrong.
This complexity means it’s even more important for the ‘IM sector’ to collaborate and converge with local and national government and between its own departments and neighbouring authorities.
Devolution, including the introduction of city mayors in England, is presenting opportunities to re-think ways of working and funding future towns and cities. Common operating frameworks and codes of practice could reduce the risk of fragmentation and support greater convergence and growth.
Without credible arrangements in place to protect privacy and demonstrate safety improvements, people will simply not use the services. They need to know that they and their details will be safe and their journeys improved.
Residents and end-users should be involved in this process, so they are at the heart of the solution. IM has the power to customise solutions and transform people’s lives. Like bringing any new service to market, we need to design something that customers want to use.
Running a CAV system is arguably easier than a hybrid network because its predictability is much enhanced compared with manually driven vehicles, which makes it a simpler environment. To ensure successful integration between current and new systems, we need a roadmap for success that the sector buys into, with clear steps and a transition plan including the convergence of physical infrastructure with the new digital systems.
New commercial models around funding and procurement will also be required.
Many people associate users of CAVs as high-spending TESLA owners and urbanite Millennials not bothering to apply for a driving licence. In practice, there are already many other potential beneficiaries. CAV trials, such as those conducted by the Flourish consortium, are identifying potential solutions to emerging social issues like an ageing population and increased isolation, offering ways of engaging with vulnerable users in addition to making them more independent.
Dr Wolfgang Schuster is Technical Director for IM with Atkins.
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