Motoring of the future - Transport Contents

2  Planning for change

7. Automotive manufacturing is a global business conducted in a global market. Technological development is driven by the industry responding to or creating consumer demand. A key question for the Government is whether it should remain passive, or whether it should actively respond to such changes. The danger is that technological developments that would contribute to major policy objectives, such as making roads safer, managing improving and investing in the road network, reducing emissions from transport and making transport accessible to all, might not be priorities for industry. If the Government does not strategically influence the future of motoring, new technology may not contribute to the achievement of those objectives. If the Government remains passive, outcomes will be shaped by the market. If it executes a joined-up strategy, it can influence developments. The increased use of data and communications technology in vehicles and the road network infrastructure means that the Government will need to act in order to minimise the risk to transport networks from terrorism and other crimes.

Vision and strategy

8. Witnesses to our inquiry consistently highlighted the need for strategic leadership by central Government to shape the outcomes that could be delivered by new motoring technology. Andrew Miller, Chief Technical Officer, Thatcham Research, argued that "This is brand new technology—the biggest change in the motor car since it was developed—so let's develop a way of getting the stakeholders together and a good strong strategy. This is a 30-year plus strategy, which the UK deserves so that it can be first in the race".[8] The Transport Systems Catapult called for a coherent, long-term UK transport strategy, for greater collaboration between Government, industry and academia and for the Government to underpin an investable environment for new motoring technology.[9] The Transport Planning Society called for an overarching strategy, embracing vehicles, vehicle use, infrastructure and highway management.[10] The RAC Foundation thought a comprehensive motoring strategy would cover technology, infrastructure, regulation, pricing, subsidies, governance and funding.[11] Professor Oliver Carsten, Professor of Transport Safety, University of Leeds, thought that the Government was in a reactive rather than proactive mode:

    They are not identifying the big issues in advance; they are not mapping out a strategy for exploiting the technologies to meet policy goals, and that is what we really desperately need. We know what the policy goals are: lower emissions, better travel times, fewer crashes, less congestion in the network and all of that. What we need to be doing is taking a long-term view of how best we can take advantage of the technologies, and harness them to achieve those goals.[12]

9. The DfT told us that "the Government has a clear strategy for motoring, which has been articulated in several key documents."[13] To support that assertion, it cited six documents: Investing in Britain's future, Action for roads, Driving success, Driving the future today, the Strategic framework for road safety and the Logistics growth review.[14] Investing in Britain's future and Action for roads cover road maintenance; Driving success is an industrial strategy for the UK car industry; Driving the future today addresses ultra-low emission vehicles; the Strategic framework for road safety is a casualties reduction plan; and the Logistics growth review identifies barriers to growth in the logistics sector.

10. The six documents cited by the DfT were published between May 2011 and September 2013. With the exception of Driving the future today, which addresses emissions but notably fails to consider driverless technology, they cover current operations rather than setting out a joined-up strategy for the future. They were drafted by five different Departments or agencies, namely the DfT, the Treasury, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Highways Agency and OLEV. Government Departments and agencies naturally pursue their own interests, which may not always be congruent.

11. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, DfT, Claire Perry MP, agreed with the witnesses to our inquiry who had highlighted the lack of strategy covering motoring of the future. She told us that "If you step back and look at what we are trying to achieve with the future of motoring, there is no overarching strategy."[15] We welcome the Minister's candour on that point. However, the lack of strategy means that cross-Government activity may not be co-ordinated, that public money may be wasted, that commercial opportunities may not be seized and that potential benefits for people may not be maximised. She also explained that "we are trying, wherever we can, to be technology-neutral and intervening where we think the market is failing."[16] We agree that the DfT should not attempt to pick winners as new technologies are developed, but it will need to do more than address market failure if the UK is to secure the benefits of new motoring technology. For example, it will need to respond efficiently and effectively to new challenges in relation to liability for accidents, changing models of ownership, data ownership and privacy concerns and the threat that a cyber-attack would present to a motoring system that is increasingly reliant on data and communication networks. If it sets strategic targets, it can leave it to the market to determine how to deliver them, but industry still needs a clear vision from the DfT.

12. The DfT already negotiates international technical standards, directs research and development, subsidises new technologies, provides certainty to incentivise infrastructure investment, sets standards for driver training, mandates the fitting of particular equipment and updates regulatory and legal frameworks to facilitate technological innovation. These are legitimate and necessary functions of government. Industry dislikes uncertainly and values stability when it makes decisions on investment. The DfT needs to telegraph its longer-term intentions, but it can only do so if there is broad cross-party agreement on the strategy and key way points. The DfT has not implemented a coherent, joined-up strategy to link the development and implementation of new automotive technology to the achievement of its wider policy goals.

13. During our inquiry, the DfT was working on a regulatory review.[17] This was published on 11 February.[18] It is a timely recognition of the importance of addressing motoring of the future and a good example of cross-government collaboration between the DfT and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. While we welcome the publication of the regulatory review, it falls short of the kind of coherent, joined-up strategy that we have in mind. Having a strategy that requires someone to read and understand several different documents, each of which has been produced at a different time and for a particular purpose, could generate misunderstanding, hinder co-ordination and impose an unnecessary burden on industry. Car manufacturers are, after all, building one car rather than six different cars, one of which is safe, one of which is fuel efficient etc. It is unrealistic to expect the average motorist to take an interest in all the different detailed policy documents that currently make up the strategy. A single document that sets out the DfT's priorities, how it expects new technologies to contribute to its wider policy objectives and a roadmap for how its vision could be delivered would be useful not only to set expectations for industry but to raise public awareness and to build public confidence in new technologies.

14. There is a strong case for having a single document that draws together the separate strands of policy making to produce a single coherent vision and roadmap for motoring and the automotive industry. The DfT should develop a comprehensive, accessible vision to shape motoring of the future in partnership with other Government Departments and agencies. This needs to convey a coherent set of objectives, describe a co-ordinated set of actions necessary to deliver those objectives and make links to the delivery of wider policy objectives. We recommend that the strategy includes six key objectives:

·  reduced or eliminated fatalities and serious injuries on roads;

·  reduced emissions from road transport;

·  increased road capacity through the use of technology rather than road building;

·  protection for citizens against the risk of cyber-attack;

·  enhanced social inclusion through more accessible road transport; and

·  support for economic growth.

8   Q188 Back

9   Transport Systems Catapult (MOF 027) Back

10   Transport Planning Society (MOF 006) Back

11   RAC Foundation (MOF 021) Back

12   Q223 Back

13   Department for Transport(MOF 004) para 4 Back

14   HM Treasury, Investing in Britain's future, 27 June 2013; Department for Transport and Highways Agency, Action for roads: a network for the 21st century, 16 July 2013; Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Driving success: UK automotive strategy for growth and sustainability, 12 July 2013; Office for Low Emission Vehicles, Driving the future today: a strategy for ultra low emission vehicles in the UK, 4 September 2013; Department for Transport, Strategic framework for road safety, 11 May 2011; Department for Transport, Logistics growth review, 29 November 2011. Back

15   Q243 Back

16   Q244 Back

17   Q256 Back

18   Department for Transport, The pathway to driverless cars: summary report and action plan, 11 February 2015; Department for Transport, The pathway to driverless cars: a detailed review of regulations for automated vehicle technologies, 11 February 2015 Back

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Prepared 6 March 2015