Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future? Contents


The four main findings of this report into connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) are contained in the following list. We then explain the main actions that are required to address each of these points.

  • The Government is too focussed on highly-automated private road vehicles (“driverless cars”), when the early benefits are likely to appear in other sectors, such as marine and agriculture;
  • The development of CAV across different sectors needs coordination and the Government, working with key stakeholders, must get a grip on this chiefly by establishing a Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Leadership Council as soon as possible to play a key role in developing a strategy for CAV;
  • There is a clear need for further Government-commissioned social and economic research to weigh the potential human and financial implications of CAV;
  • This 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.

Government work too focussed on road CAV

The Government must broaden its focus so that its work on CAV cuts across all sectors and does not focus so heavily on highly-automated private road vehicles. The Government must not allow hype and media attention around driverless cars to cause it to lose sight of the many potential benefits that CAV can provide in areas outside the roads sector and within the roads sector for public transport vehicles and lorries.

The Government should play a coordinating role

A RAS Leadership Council involving Government, industry and academia should be established as soon as possible. This is to ensure that expertise and knowledge are shared across all sectors so as to obtain the maximum economic and societal benefits to the UK of CAV. The RAS Leadership Council should take a key role in developing the strategy for this sector and fulfilling the aspirations of the Industrial Strategy.

Within the roads sector the Government should play a coordinating role in bringing different stakeholders together. It should set up and a chair a forum that will allow Local Transport Authorities (LTAs), who are responsible for the majority of UK roads, to share knowledge and expertise on CAV and to be deployed as advisers on the direction of future trials and research.

In the international arena the Government should take a leading role in a number of areas, including the development of sets of standards to address the ethical issues pertaining to CAV, to govern data retention in the event of an accident and to tackle the risks associated with cybersecurity and CAV.

The Government should also ensure the UK maintains its leading role in marine CAV by being at the forefront of international negotiations on new global regulations for the use of marine CAV in international waters.

The need for Government-commissioned research

The Government’s work on CAV for the roads sector has focused too heavily on research problems and testing technologies for highly automated vehicles with inadequate effort on thinking about deployment, especially user acceptance for road vehicles, or on the wide range of possible benefits from connected vehicles.

The list of potential benefits of CAV is long, but more research is required to understand the scale or indeed the likelihood of these claimed benefits. The Government should commission detailed research to challenge cherished assumptions and provide a realistic indication of the benefits CAV could provide.

The main social and behavioural questions relating to CAV remain largely unanswered and the Government should give priority to commissioning and encouraging research to provide answers.

The Government’s recently published work on the behaviour of mixed fleets is a useful starting point, but must be developed to better understand not only the behaviour of drivers but also the behaviour of other road users and pedestrians.

We challenge the expected benefits of a level of automation at which a driver takes back control of the vehicle in an emergency situation. Given the evidence that reactions could be slow and poor in such circumstances, it may be that the risks associated with this are too great to tolerate and that a way should be found to bypass Level 3 where a driver does not need to monitor the dynamic driving conditions, nor the driving environment at all times, but must always be in a position to resume control.

Preparation for deployment of highly automated road vehicles

Existing manufacturers and new entrants will carry out their own research and development (R&D) for fully automated cars if there is a clear business case for investing in these technologies. The Government should not need to invest heavily or to take the lead in this area.

Nevertheless, the Government should continue to support scientific research in robotics and related information technology at academic institutions, to ensure that the UK continues to have a world-leading research base in these crucial areas.

Whilst the Government should not be involved in research into the technology itself, it must ensure that it prepares for the deployment of fully-automated road vehicles (Levels 4 and 5 of automation) through a comprehensive testing offer for CAV to attract manufacturers and academics to the UK. This should include one or more large scale testing environments covering real world urban and rural environments.

Highways England and LTAs should engage with motor manufacturers to future-proof new infrastructure and minimise the likelihood of expensive retro-fitting.

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