House of Lords: UK Government must act to maximise autonomous vehicle benefits

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The Government needs to adjust its policy and investment decisions if the UK is to fully benefit from autonomous vehicles, according to a report published by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.

The Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future? report also warns that Highways England needs to future-proof infrastructure so the UK does not miss out on receiving the maximum economic benefit from the developing technology.

Among the recommendations the Committee has set out include broadening the work carried out on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV), to include all sectors of the industry rather than being so heavily focussed on road vehicles.

The report expects the early benefits of CAV will be in sectors such as marine and agriculture and so is urging the Government to not allow media attention around driverless cars to sway policy decisions.

Establishing a Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Leadership Council as soon as possible to help develop a CAV strategy and ensure information is shared across all sectors.

The Committee also recommends that the Government, in collaboration with Highways England and local transport authorities, engage with industry to make sure any new infrastructure can be future-proofed so minimizing the need for expensive retro-fitting.

Chairman of the Committee, the Earl of Selborne said, “Connected and Autonomous Vehicles is a fast-moving area of technology and the Government has much to do, alongside industry and other partners, to position the UK so that it can take full advantage of the opportunities that CAV offer in different sectors.

“In order to ensure that the UK can benefit from emerging CAV technologies the Government must continue to take action to close the engineering and digital skills gap. We welcome the focus on skills in the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper and urge the Government to find innovative solutions to this problem.

“Long-term developments in CAV 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.”

Responding to the release of the report, TRL welcomed the positive nature of the content and ‘the reasonable’ set of recommendations for the Government. The company’s academy director, Nick Reed, said, “It’s refreshing to see the committee recognise that the benefits of connectivity and automation have the potential to transform mobility in a range of sectors including freight, marine and agriculture, going beyond the development of privately owned ‘driverless’ cars.

“CAVs are developing in two distinct ways; fully automated vehicles operating in increasingly sophisticated environments, and vehicles in which automated systems take responsibility for greater parts of the task at hand, whether that be driving, harvesting crops or delivering parcels. The opportunity for CAVs is almost endless; there are so many sectors where they can have an immediate and positive impact.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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