1.The possible applications of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) are far-reaching, straddling a variety of different sectors. The examples provided in our evidence included—but were not limited to—aerial, marine, public roads, private and public transport (including metro and rail), space, military, warehousing, ambulance services, precision agriculture, inspection and monitoring of resources, working in dangerous and hazardous environments (such as nuclear facilities) and the delivery of humanitarian supplies.
2.Proponents of CAV point to anticipated benefits in convenience, efficiency, safety, environmental impact, increased mobility for some groups of society and economic benefits. Others have suggested CAV might reduce the number of driving jobs, pose security threats and raise privacy issues. Surveys have obtained mixed results on public opinion regarding CAV.
3.As well as the future applications of CAV, our evidence detailed some of the areas in which CAV are currently in use. Appendix 6 provides some examples of how CAV are already being used and trialled in the roads, aerial, marine and energy sectors.
4.The Government has been active in responding to the potential for the UK offered by CAV, particularly in the roads sector.
5.The 2010–15 Coalition Government identified Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) as one of the ‘Eight Great Technologies’ to be supported by their Industrial Strategy. CAV are a type of RAS. The RAS 2020 Strategy (see paragraphs 12 and 13) defined RAS as:
“[I]nterconnected, interactive, cognitive and physical tools, able to variously perceive their environments, reason about events, make or revise plans and control their actions. They perform useful tasks for us in the real world, extending our capabilities, increasing our productivity and reducing our risks.”
6.Together, the Eight Great Technologies were allocated £600 million, with the Government aiming to work with leadership groups in each one to encourage their development. RAS was allocated £35 million.
7.In the Queen’s Speech on 18 May 2016, the Government confirmed its intention to introduce a Modern Transport Bill to “ensure the United Kingdom is at the forefront of technology for new forms of transport, including autonomous and electric vehicles”. Furthermore, with regards to CAV, the Department for Transport’s (DfT) stated aim is to “maintain the UK’s world-leading position for developing and testing connected and autonomous road vehicle technology”. On 22 February, the Government introduced a Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill to the House of Commons which contained provisions relating to insurance for automated vehicles.
8.In July 2015 the Government formed the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) to co-ordinate the Government’s action on CAV, leading policy development and stimulating research and development (R&D) alongside Innovate UK. CCAV’s website claims that the UK is one of the best countries for car makers and others to develop and test CAV technologies because of its flexible regulations, thriving automotive sector, and excellent research base and innovation infrastructure.
9.The DfT carried out a review of the regulations for testing CAV in the UK, which concluded in February 2015, and subsequently published a Code of Practice outlining how to conduct testing in compliance with UK law. The DfT has indicated that it will periodically review this Code of Practice to keep it up-to-date in the light of testing.
10.CCAV issued a call for evidence on the UK testing ecosystem for CAV, which closed in July 2016. The DfT and CCAV opened a consultation in July 2016, soliciting opinions on a range of issues regarding CAV, in particular focusing on their proposals to amend regulations, insurance legislation, and the Highway Code.
11.On 23 January 2017, the Government published its Industrial Strategy Green Paper, Building our Industrial Strategy. This suggested that autonomous vehicles might be a suitable candidate to receive funding under its previously announced Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The Government also undertook to:
“[C]ement the UK’s position as a go-to destination for the development of this technology by establishing a new testing ecosystem, using both controlled and real world environments. We will announce the location of the coordinating hub for this project by spring 2017.”
12.To stimulate collaboration and innovation in RAS capabilities, a RAS ‘Special Interest Group’ (SIG), comprising academics and industrialists, was established in 2013 with support from the Technology Strategy Board (now called Innovate UK).
13.The SIG subsequently produced RAS 2020, a national strategy for RAS, in July 2014. Its objective was “to capture value in a cross-sector UK RAS innovation pipeline through co-ordinated development of assets, challenges, clusters and skills” and it made eight recommendations aimed at realising that goal. The Government response to the RAS 2020 national strategy was published in March 2015.
14.We decided to launch an inquiry into CAV in September 2016 against the background set out in the previous paragraphs. We recognised that this was an area in which technology was developing at a rapid pace and where the Government needed to make policy decisions and investment decisions to enable the UK to receive the maximum possible amount of economic benefit.
15.Forecasting the pace of technological change is perilous and predicting the pace of economic and social change is even more so. Whilst we cannot predict the future and we cannot anticipate all the changes that CAV might bring about, long-term developments in CAV have the potential to bring about transformational change to society. These changes will only take place if society is willing to both pay for and adapt its behaviour to fit the technology. This report is our attempt to stop and think about these potential changes and to encourage the Government and other stakeholders to do the same.
16.Our call for evidence set out a number of questions in the following areas:
17.Whilst our call for evidence made clear that we were keen to receive evidence about the use of CAV in all sectors, the evidence we received related overwhelmingly to the use of CAV in the roads sector. This report therefore is similarly weighted towards the consideration of the use of CAV in the roads sector.
18.A whole variety of terms were used in the evidence we received to describe the technology which is the subject of this report. Amongst these were driverless vehicles (or cars), autonomous vehicles, automated vehicles, highly automated vehicles and connected vehicles.
19.Whilst accepting that a case could probably be made for using any one of these terms, throughout this report we use the term ‘connected and autonomous vehicles’ (CAV). This echoes the term widely used by the Government—most notably in the name of the organisation it set up to co-ordinate its action on autonomous vehicles, the ‘Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’ (CCAV).
20.Connected vehicles are vehicles that use any of a number of different communication technologies to communicate with the driver, other vehicles on the road (vehicle-to-vehicle [V2V]), roadside infrastructure (vehicle-to-infrastructure [V2I]), and the ‘cloud’.
21.Autonomous vehicles are those in which operation of the vehicle occurs without direct driver input to control the steering, acceleration, and braking and are designed so that the driver is not expected to monitor constantly the roadway while operating in self-driving mode.
22.Some vehicles are both autonomous and connected whilst others are connected vehicles only and others are autonomous only. They are often referred to by the composite term ‘connected and autonomous vehicles’.
23.We have not considered remote control vehicles (RCV) or drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) in this report. An RCV differs from an autonomous vehicle in that the RCV is always controlled by a human and takes little or no positive action autonomously. Examples of RCV include the majority of the probes to the other planets in our solar system and the devices used by bomb-squads to defuse or detonate explosives.
24.In January 2014, the Society of Automotive Engineers produced a report which identified six levels of driving automation spanning from no automation (Level 0) to full automation (Level 5). Figure 1 below, which is reproduced from a March 2015 report commissioned by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The UK Economic Opportunity, illustrates the six different levels of autonomy. These levels of autonomy cover road vehicles only.
25.Much of the evidence we received referred to these six levels of automation for road vehicles and we refer to them throughout this report.
26.In Chapter Two we analyse the actions the Government has taken and needs to take to co-ordinate R&D into CAV and robotics technology through Innovate UK and CCAV. We also discuss other areas, including a wider transport strategy and skills, where there is a need for Government coordination and oversight. In Chapter Three we consider some of the potential social and economic benefits CAV could bring. In Chapter Four we set out what R&D, commissioned by the Government and others, needs to be carried out over the short and medium term to ensure the benefits of the deployment of CAV are maximised and potential drawbacks minimised. Finally, in Chapter 5, we consider the international cooperation, regulation and standards which will be necessary to allow the full benefits of CAV to be realised.
27.The membership of the Committee is set out in Appendix 1. We issued a call for evidence on 15 September 2016, which is contained in Appendix 3. In November 2016 we took oral evidence from 20 witnesses. We received 88 written submissions. A list of witnesses is included in Appendix 2.We have also drawn on earlier consultations and publications. A glossary of acronyms and key terms used can be found in Appendix 5.
28.In addition to holding oral evidence sessions, we visited the Greenwich GATEway project on 6 December 2016. Starship Technologies demonstrated their personal delivery device to us on 13 December 2016.
29.We would like to record our particular thanks to the Greenwich GATEway project, the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Thames Clipper company for their help with the practical arrangements for our visit.
30.Our Specialist Adviser for this inquiry was Professor Eric Sampson, Newcastle University. We have been fortunate to benefit from his expertise and enthusiasm, which have contributed greatly to our work.
31.We look forward to receiving a written response to this report from the Government and we will seek a debate in the House as soon as possible thereafter.
1 See paragraphs 18–23 and Appendix 5 for definitions of terms used in this report.
2 (Iain Forbes), (Prof Simon Blackmore and Dr Rob Buckingham), (John Hayes CBE MP) and written evidence from Pupils 2 Parliament (), Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) (), Prof James Scanlan, University of Southampton (), Prof Simon Blackmore, Harper Adams University (HAU) (), Innovate UK (), Deloitte LLP (), Prof Sarah Sharples and colleagues, University of Nottingham (), Research Councils UK (RCUK) (), Zurich Insurance plc (), the Royal Aeronautical Society (), AutoNaut Ltd (), the Met Office (), Rolls-Royce () and HM Government ()
3 Special Interest Group: Robotics and Autonomous Systems, RAS 2020 Robotics and Autonomous Systems (July 2014): [accessed 20 December 2016]
4 Rt Hon David Willetts, Speech on Eight great technologies, 24 January 2013: [accessed 10 January 2017]
5 Cabinet Office, Queen’s Speech 2016 (18 May 2016): [accessed 20 December 2016]
6 DfT, Single departmental plan 2015 to 2020 (Updated 12 October 2016), section 1.1: [accessed 20 December 2016]
7 [Bill 143 (2016–17)]
8 DfT, The Pathway to Driverless Cars: A Code of Practice for testing (July 2015): [accessed 20 December 2016]
9 DfT, The Pathway to Driverless Cars: Summary report and action plan (February 2015): [accessed 9 January 2017]
10 BEIS and Innovate UK, Driverless vehicle testing facilities: call for evidence (26 May 2016): [accessed 9 January 2017]
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12 HM Government, Building our Industrial Strategy: Green Paper (January 2017): [accessed 1 February 2017]
13 HM Government, Building our Industrial Strategy: Green Paper (January 2017): [accessed 1 February 2017]
14 Special Interest Group: Robotics and Autonomous Systems, RAS 2020 Robotics and Autonomous Systems (July 2014): [accessed 20 December 2016]
16 Cabinet Office, ‘Response to the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Strategy’, (March 2015): [accessed 9 January 2017]
17 See Appendix 3
18 V2V [Vehicle-to-vehicle] communication enables information about an incident or dangerous road conditions to be sent by the first vehicles at a scene to alert those following; V2I [vehicle-to-Infrastructure} communication lets vehicles report traffic flows and road conditions to control centres to help network management and mobilise emergency services and salt gritting as necessary. V2I also enables broadcasting of information to a larger area than V2V.
19 In the simplest terms, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programmes over the internet. The cloud is a metaphor for the internet.
20 SAE International, Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to On-Road Motor Vehicle Automated Driving Systems (January 2014): [accessed 9 January 2017]
21 KPMG and the SMMT, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The UK Economic Opportunity (March 2015): [accessed 20 December 2016]
22 GATEway Project (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment): [accessed 10 January 2017]
23 Starship Technologies: [accessed 10 January 2017]