A new report has found that realising the full benefits of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) on the UK’s roads is likely to require new road and communications infrastructure.
Published today (15 March), the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report sets out recommendations for the Government to ensure it makes decisions that enable the UK to receive maximum economic benefit from autonomous vehicles.
The report concludes that mobile (phone) coverage on UK roads will need to be improved, adding that the Government must take action with Highways England and Local Transport Authorities to ensure new infrastructure can be future-proofed and will not need ‘expensive retro-fitting’.
Looking at CAVs in a broader sense, the report finds that the main social, behavioural and ethical questions relating to autonomous cars – including whether they will reduce collisions caused by human error – remain largely unanswered.
The Committee heard evidence that autonomous vehicles have the potential to lower the number of road fatalities, but the eradication of human error will only be realised with full automation which could take decades.
The report also says the Government ‘must broaden its focus’ so that its work on CAVs cuts across all sectors, and does not focus so heavily on road vehicles.
The report says that while the Government should not be involved in developing automated cars, it must prepare for the deployment of fully-automated vehicles, including conducting one or more large scale tests covering real world urban and rural environments.
The Earl of Selborne, chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, 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.”
TRL has welcomed the report, adding that it is ‘refreshing’ to see the committee recognise the benefits of the technology.
Nick Reed, TRL’s academy director, Nick Reed, said: “The House of Lords inquiry… has issued a positive and reasonable set of recommendations for the government to consider, building upon an exciting programme of research already underway.
“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.”
Featured photo: House of Lords Science and Technology Committee via Twitter (@LordsSTCom)