UK government launches its Future of Mobility Grand Challenge

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The UK government has released new plans that could be the start of an exciting and profound change in how people, goods and services move around the country, with two ‘call for evidence’ documents launching its Future of Mobility Grand Challenge.

There are already 300,000 trucks and more than 4,000,000 vans on the country’s roads and with online sales continuing to increase, this is likely to increase further. New green delivery vehicles could replace the millions of conventionally-fueled vans that are currently used in city centers. The initiative foresees fleets of electric cargo bikes, vans, quadricycles and micro vehicles replacing goods vehicles in cities as part of plans to transform last-mile deliveries, vastly reducing emissions and congestion around the country.

The plans offer a glimpse into how technology could transform transport, making it safer, and more accessible and environmentally friendly than ever. Travel could also dramatically change with the introduction of flying vehicles and the widespread use of automated vehicles, and shared transport may allow the majority of parking spaces to be removed in city centers, opening areas up for redevelopment.

The Last Mile and Future of Mobility calls for evidence launch the Grand Challenge, which aims to make the UK the world leader in the movement of goods, services and people. The two documents outline trends that include:

• Cleaner transport – the government has already outlined its intention for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040, with falling battery prices, improvements in electric vehicle technology, and the development of alternative fuels reducing pollutants from existing modes of transport, while paving the way for new innovations;

• Automation – improved sensors, increased computing power and the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) are leading to increased automation in transport, with the government expecting to see fully self-driving cars on UK roads by 2021;

• Data and connectivity – internet connected vehicles can help to avert congestion, and link with traffic lights and motorway signs to reduce delays and improve air quality;

• New modes – UK cities are already pioneering the use of drones to support emergency services and improve infrastructure inspections, but the introduction of aerial passenger vehicles could also appear in urban areas, while the lines between taxis and buses could blur, with more on-demand transport;

• Shared mobility – that could reduce congestion and emissions and are likely to include commercial ridesharing, car rental services where users rent from one another, and shared-use bikes;

• Changing consumer attitudes – technology is also changing the way people expect to be able to travel, with more users expecting to be able to plan, book and pay for transport through their phones;

• New business models – such as Mobility as a-Service (Maas) that can make payment easier, provide better real-time information, and allow passengers to book multiple modes of transport with just one click.

“The UK has a long and proud history of leading the world in transport innovation and our Future of Mobility Grand Challenge is designed to ensure this continues,” noted UK Transport Minister Jesse Norman.

“We are on the cusp of an exciting and profound change in how people, goods and services move around the country which is set to be driven by extraordinary innovation. Our calls for evidence mark just one stage in our push to make the most of these inviting opportunities.”

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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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