New report says London is unprepared for new transport technologies

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The London Assembly’s Transport Committee has released a new report that warns Transport for London (TfL) that it needs to predict and prepare for changes in technology, such as drones, droids and driverless cars.

The London Assembly is part of the Greater London Authority and is an elected body that acts as a mayoral watchdog. Its Transport Committee report, Future Transport: How is London responding to technological innovation?, finds that:

• Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) will not be on the road until the 2030s at least, and could add to congestion;

• Dockless cycle schemes need to be able to operate across London to be effective;

• There is no control system in place for drones and droids;

• TfL is monitoring technological developments; but this needs to be embedded across the whole organization.

The study also states that there have been recent failures in London’s preparations for innovative transport services, notably the rapid growth of private hire operator Uber, and the disruptive launch of dockless cycle hire service, oBike.

The Transport Committee report recommends Mayor Sadiq Khan, TfL and government should:

• Consider the potential development and impact of autonomous bus technology;

• Examine whether to introduce a London-wide licensing regime for dockless cycle hire;

• Develop the principles of a new regulatory regime for demand-responsive bus services;

• Ensure data produced by apps powered by underlying TfL data is shared with the agency;

• Consider an integrated control system for ground-based autonomous vehicles and airborne drones.

“Autonomous vehicles could make roads safer. Dockless bikes could spread the benefits of cycling to the whole city, and demand-responsive buses could give people a public transport service tailored to their needs,” noted Keith Prince, chairman of the Assembly’s Transport Committee.

“The opportunity to improve mobility for millions of Londoners is here, but it will require proper planning, transparency, and accountability, as well as cooperation with government, boroughs, and development companies. TfL have been caught napping on the technology front and it’s time to wake up.

“Uber, then oBike, are two examples of a poorly prepared regulator, which seems to be making it up as they go along. Go back to 2014; in its Future Proof report, this committee warned that ‘TfL needs to be prepared for the inevitable consequences of a transport environment in which technology is evolving faster than the legislation that is needed to govern its use’. It’s clear that warning was ignored; let’s hope this warning won’t be.”

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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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