‘Anticipating Autonomous’: a story of curiosity and confidence

 

Did you know that almost two-thirds (65%) of senior industry leaders are confident that connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) will be made available for use on UK roads in the next five years?

This figure comes from our report examining the thoughts of 250 senior business decision makers from the technology, transport and automotive industries.

We’re proud to be part of the SMLL consortium bringing you this research – Anticipating autonomous: the UK’s driverless future - and the CAV test-bed itself that is helping to make this happen.

As part of SMLL, we spend a lot of time questioning the future of mobility and what needs to change to make autonomous a reality. But there is something about seeing cold, hard statistics straight from the mouths of those involved in the transport and technology industries about when and how this will happen that makes you look at things with a different lens.

In this blog post, I’d like to share the report highlights with you. Read on to find out what business leaders expect, and what they question, about CAVs today.

Recognising the potential of CAVs

One of the key findings of the report was that prevailing attitudes towards CAVs are positive, with a heavy percentage receptive to the idea that CAVs will be a force for good. But how did we come to this conclusion? Let’s break it down.

First off, there’s the fundamental question of safety. Will CAVs make the UK’s roads a safer place to be?

Two-thirds (67%) of business decision makers think they will – and rightly so. When CAVs are connected to each other, they will receive a stream of real-time updates about the whereabouts of the other vehicles around them, hugely reducing the likelihood of a crash.

With a lot of scaremongering going on in the media, I was really pleased to see so much confidence from industry leaders in CAV safety, but in some respects, it was even more pleasing to see the less obvious social benefits being recognised too with our second point.

Secondly, almost half (49%) of respondents see increased mobility for elderly and disabled people as the main benefit of CAVs.

It’s really heart-warming that this is understood to be such a significant part of what CAVs can do. Personally, I think that this technology has enormous potential to increase accessibility to our towns and cities for all groups of people – something that can’t be overstated.

Thirdly, nearly three-quarters (74%) believe CAVs will play a role in helping the UK hit its fifth carbon budget target by 2030.

It could be argued that this reflects the fact that most respondents assume CAVs will predominantly be electric vehicles, but I think business leaders are aware that improving the efficiency of cars on the road will reduce emissions considerably. After all, smarter driving means less time on the road – and consequently, less time burning fuel.

Fourthly, it’s encouraging to see the majority of business leaders (51%) think the key benefit of CAVs will be the way they free up more time for commuters. More time to spend on other activities in your life rather than just navigating traffic from A to B can only be a good thing, right?

Finally, over three-fifths (62%) believe CAVs will have a positive impact on UK GDP. It makes sense that workers will be more productive when they can use the commute answering emails and preparing for the day ahead, or even taking some time to really relax.

And it’s especially important in London, since commuters in the capital travel for 74 minutes on average, nearly double the worldwide average which stands at 40 minutes.

As a consortium we are interested in how we can bring about all these benefits (and many more) not just in isolation, but altogether.

There are still questions to explore

Nearly half (49%) our respondents told us they had expected CAVs to already be available in the UK by now.

With this much anticipation, it’s time to ask ourselves: what do we need to do to get there?

Testing

This is a major priority for business leaders (and clearly for us at SMLL too). Over two-thirds (68%) of respondents agree that CAVs need to undergo rigorous real-world testing. A further four-fifths (84%) believe the UK should have its own testing facilities to facilitate this.

 

Standards

The majority (70%) of report respondents feel confident that CAVs can be successfully regulated against a standard. Plus, nearly two-thirds (65%) believe that we’re developing standards quickly enough to ensure a timely roll out of CAVs in the UK.

 

Technology

This is the complicated bit – and industry leaders know it. Nearly half (44%) cited the advancement of in-vehicle (47%), roadside (44%), and digital infrastructure (40%) technologies as factors which had prevented CAVs being made available for use in the UK already.

SMLL: seeking answers, together

According to our research, there is an absolute expectation that CAVs will be made available to UK road users. We’re just working out how and when this will happen.

This report, whilst highlighting the extent of positive public opinion towards driverless cars and connected transport, shows that there are crucial questions left to be answered – especially around testing facilities and technological capability.

We need to search for answers together, since these questions, at such high level of complexity, aren’t the kind of questions any one organisation can solve alone.

This is why we need a collaborative testbed and research programme – the Smart Mobility Living Lab – to enable us to search for answers.

It’s all about collaborative innovation.

By bringing together experts from the technology, transport and urban planning industries, SMLL aims to find the answers that will enable us to develop more intelligent, safe and joined up transport systems for UK citizens.

So, read our report and do let us know what you think the future of driverless cars in the UK looks like. Either comment below or tweet us @SMLL_London with the hashtag #JourneyMakers