32.In this Chapter we analyse the actions the Government has taken and needs to take to co-ordinate research and development (R&D) into connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) and robotics technology through Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV). We also discuss other areas, including a wider transport strategy and skills, where there is a need for Government coordination and oversight.
33.The centrepiece of the Government’s work on CAV has been the establishment of the CCAV, a joint unit between the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It was established in July 2015 to “keep the UK at the forefront of the development and deployment of [CAV] technology”. Iain Forbes, Head of the CCAV, told us that the Centre had four broad objectives:
34.In the Autumn Statement 2013, the Government set out plans to encourage “the development of driverless cars in the UK”. In the March 2015 Budget, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, announced a £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund for research into CAV, to be match-funded by industry. This money would be allocated through a series of funding competitions by CCAV working closely with Innovate UK. The winners of the first competition (for £20 million) were announced in February 2016, with eight collaborative R&D projects and 13 feasibility studies receiving funding. A second competition (for £35 million) is currently open. This funding is in addition to that which has already been allocated to the three driverless car trials (see Box 1). Innovate UK has also funded a number of CAV projects in the marine sector.
GATEway Project Greenwich
GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment) is an £8 million research project, led by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), to understand and overcome the technical, legal and societal challenges of implementing automated vehicles in an urban environment.
Taking place in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, the project aims to trial and validate a series of different use cases for CAV, including driverless shuttles and automated urban deliveries.
VENTURER brings together a partnership of public, private and academic experts in order to establish the South West as a world class test site facility for CAV. VENTURER focuses on the users as well as the technology enabling CAV, in order to understand the blockers and drivers to wide scale adoption of CAV capability.
A consortium of technology and automotive businesses, local authorities and academic institutions who are working together on a major three-year UK trial of self-driving vehicle and connected car technologies. The trial will culminate in a series of urban demonstrations on selected public roads and footpaths in the host cities of Milton Keynes and Coventry. As well as showcasing the latest technology, UK Autodrive is also investigating other important aspects of automated driving—including safety and cybersecurity, legal and insurance issues, public acceptance for CAV and the potential business models for turning automated driving systems into a widespread reality.
A2/M2 Connected Corridor
The DfT and its partners (Highways England, Kent County Council and Transport for London) are designing a flagship “connected vehicle corridor” on the A2/M2 London to Dover route, a £15 million living laboratory for deploying a range of services and wireless communications technologies that [connected] vehicles will need to operate.This is part of a wider Connected Europe Facility project.
35.It should be noted that Innovate UK funds a number of Catapult centres which are “a network of world-leading centres designed to transform the UK’s capability for innovation in specific areas and help drive future economic growth”. The Transport Systems Catapult submitted written evidence to our inquiry, but other Catapults such as the Future Cities Catapult and the Digital Catapult also have an interest in the development of CAV.
36.We received evidence that the CCAV and Innovate UK were carrying out their roles effectively. Five AI Inc told us that the CCAV had been extremely effective and ITS United Kingdom said “Innovate UK and CCAV are functioning well as co-ordinators … for the research, and would appear to be acting precisely according to the political priorities set for them.” However, support for CCAV and Innovate UK was not unanimous. Professor Paul Newman told us that, while Innovate UK deserved credit, he was concerned that the pace at which autonomous vehicle initiatives were happening was too slow. Peak Power made a similar point:
“There is no evidence of real success to date, or indication [Innovate UK and the CCAV] have appreciated the strategic long term value of AVs [autonomous vehicles] to UK industry, [the] UK economy, and the ‘winner takes all’ urgency to the opportunity.”
37.Whilst, on balance, the evidence showed that CCAV and Innovate UK had been operating well within their narrowly defined remits, there was some criticism of the Government’s overall strategy for CAV, particularly in the non-roads sectors.
38.Professor David Lane told us that the Government had only just scratched the surface, while Professor Newman said that the CCAV model should be extended across all of Government. Furthermore, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) told us that it should be extended to involve the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), given the prominent role of telecommunications and the tech sector in the development and deployment of CAV (see the section on Infrastructure in Chapter Five, paragraphs 170–180).
39.By its own admission the Government’s predominant focus so far has been on the roads sector. However, we heard of the current use and real potential of CAV in other sectors, including marine, agriculture and hazardous environments. Professor Simon Blackmore told us that he believed that autonomous agricultural vehicles would have a bigger impact on agriculture than driverless cars will on the road because there is an opportunity to significantly reduce the cost of crop production and reduce adverse impacts on the environment. The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) pointed out the large opportunities for CAV in hazardous environments, for example when dealing with nuclear waste. The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST) also told us about the wide ranging potential benefits in the marine sector from autonomous vehicles.
40.In 2016, the Cabinet Office convened a time-limited working group to support information sharing and coordination of government activities on Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS). The departments represented were: BEIS (then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Department of Energy and Climate Change), DfT, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Cabinet Office, Ministry of Defence (MoD), Department of Health and DCMS, plus a number of relevant agencies including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK. This working group has now been wound down.
41.Autonomous vehicles are being used, or have the potential to be used, in the roads, marine, agricultural and other sectors. But there is no clear central coordination of strategy or information sharing across the different sectors. The Government must broaden its focus so that its work on connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) cuts across all sectors and does not focus so heavily on road vehicles. This will require greater coordination across Government and the involvement of more departments in the work of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV).
42.One of the recommendations of the RAS 2020 Strategy (see paragraph 13 was the formation of a RAS Leadership Council, bringing together industry, academia and government to provide “independent advisory oversight of planning and execution of the strategy”. In responding to the Strategy in March 2015, the then Universities Minister, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, stated that the Government intended to establish a RAS Leadership Council.
43.The RAS Leadership Council has not yet been set up, as the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has pointed out, with the Government stating that things have moved on and a number of other activities have been introduced in this area. The House of Commons Committee went on to recommend that the Leadership Council should be established as soon as possible.
44.Dr Rob Buckingham, Director of the UKAEA, warned us that, without the coordination the RAS Leadership would provide, the different strands of RAS—including autonomous vehicles—would remain working within silos and would all underperform. The point was also made by Rolls-Royce that the parallel development of autonomous road vehicles, alongside other sectors, could result in advantageous advances where there is overlap in the technologies required. Nick Hurd MP, the Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry, told us that the Government thought the RAS Leadership Council was still the right idea, but it needed to revisit it through the process of the Industrial Strategy.
45.Whilst we note that the Government will revisit the idea of a RAS Leadership Council through the process of the Industrial Strategy, action to coordinate activities across the robotics sector, including CAV, is more urgent than this timescale would suggest. We call on the Government to establish such a Council as soon as possible, to ensure that technology and expertise is shared and the maximum economic benefit for the UK is achieved.
46.The RAS Leadership Council must take the lead in this area and the Government should complement the work of this Council by taking action only in areas where the RAS Leadership Council advises it that Government action is required or where the Leadership Council is not acting.
47.There is a risk that if CAV are widely available and easy to use, in particular fully automated Level 5 vehicles, they could have a negative impact on the use of other modes of transport, for example walking and cycling or public transport. This was highlighted by Pupils 2 Parliament: “[CAV] could encourage more people to make more journeys, even very short ones, by car, and so stop getting exercise by walking.”
48.Dr Debbie Hopkins of the Transport Studies Unit at the University of Oxford told us of the risk that “investments in CAV technology may cancel out some of the positive social and environmental effects of current and recent transport policies”.
49.Transport for London stated that its priority was to promote walking, cycling and public transport and that it would be “important to ensure that business models for deployment of autonomous vehicles do not detract from these objectives, working alongside public transport to enhance mobility in the city overall”.
50.Rt Hon John Hayes MP, Minister of States and the DfT, said that the future of transport, including CAV, needed to be thought about in a holistic way:
“It is really important that we do not hurtle in one direction with our public transport policy only to be hurtling in a different one with autonomous vehicles.”
51.While this reassurance from the Minister is welcome, we received evidence that holistic thinking is currently lacking in Government. The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) told us that:
“[T]here is no clear national motoring strategy that sets out how private vehicles integrate with other transport modes both on the highways and other networks.”
52.Furthermore, the House of Commons Transport Committee concluded in its report Motoring of the future that: “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.”
53.We agree with the House of Commons Transport Committee that the Government has not implemented a coherent, joined up transport strategy. We recommend that the Government should bring forward a wider transport strategy that places the development and implementation of CAV in the context of wider policy goals, such as increased use of public transport, and the reduction of congestion and pollution.
54.We heard that changes will be needed to the motor insurance regime in order to cover vehicles operating in autonomous mode.
55.Currently after an accident the insurer of the at-fault driver pays out on insurance claims by third parties who suffer damage. For semi- or fully autonomous vehicles there may be occasions when an accident occurs and the car is in fully autonomous mode. In this case the ‘driver’ is not necessarily liable and liability could lie with the manufacturer of the vehicle.
56.The Government launched a consultation on 11 July 2016 on proposals for changes to motor insurance to cover CAV. In its consultation the Government suggested that motor insurance should also include product liability for (semi-) autonomous cars as well as traditional motor liability (for when the driver is in control). This insurance would also cover the ‘driver’ as they may be a victim if the car is in autonomous mode. Provisions relating to insurance for automated vehicles were included in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill which was introduced to the House of Commons by the Government on 22 February.
57.The evidence received from insurance companies and insurance industry bodies suggested the broad thrust of the Government’s proposals had been welcomed by the industry, but there were some remaining issues, particularly around product liability.
58.In its response to the consultation the Government said it would modify the proposals to be brought forward in the light of the feedback from the insurance industry:
“[The Government] will now extend compulsory motor vehicle insurance creating a single insurer model to protect victims where the AV [autonomous vehicle] causes a crash in automated mode. The victim will have a direct right against the motor insurer and the insurer in turn will have a right of recovery against the responsible party to the extent there is a liability under existing laws, including under product liability laws.”
59.The Government must continue to engage with the insurance industry and other stakeholders to ensure that proposals to protect victims where an autonomous vehicle is involved in a crash while in automated mode are workable, timely and appropriate. The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill is unlikely to receive Royal Assent in the current Parliamentary session therefore the Government should stand ready to reintroduce the Bill in the next Parliamentary session.
60.In England, Wales and Scotland, Local Transport Authorities (LTAs), which are often local authorities, are responsible for the maintenance and management of the majority of roads. We received evidence from three large LTAs (Transport for London, Transport for West Midlands and Transport for Greater Manchester) and Darren Capes from City of York Council—a smaller LTA, containing urban, suburban and rural areas, representative of many LTAs around the country. Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain are responsible for the licensing and regulation of those who operate heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches, and the registration of local bus services. They are assisted in this work by deputy Traffic Commissioners, who preside over a number of public inquiries.
61.LTAs need to make decisions on policy and funding as current highway systems, such as traffic management systems, reach the end of their life. We heard that, as some level of connectivity and automation of vehicles in the future seems to be inevitable, it is important that LTAs receive guidance from the Government on how the deployment of CAV will impact on the systems and infrastructure required. Mr Capes said, “I feel that most local authorities are not yet sufficiently prepared to deliver it.”
62.John Hayes MP told us that the Government has funded the Technology Transport Forum to work with LTAs. The forum “will be the guide to set out what autonomous vehicles can do for different localities and how local authorities can play their part in this”.
63.However, Mr Capes suggested that the work of the forum does not go far enough in supporting LTAs, many of whom do not have a clear understanding of how CAV may operate on the UK road network.
64.Furthermore, planning for city centre development often involves timescales of 10–15 years or more and the lack of guidance for local authorities on the deployment of CAV makes this type of planning difficult, as highlighted by Mr Capes in oral evidence. Mr Capes also stated that LTAs “need to do this against a backdrop of pressure to reduce costs and find further efficiencies in delivering services”.
65.Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) “believe it is the role of Government to work with transport authorities to ensure AV are able to meet safety restrictions [for multi-modal urban spaces] from the outset, otherwise AV implementation will be fragmented and unsustainable”. Atkins said that the Government needs to provide a unified approach for LTAs for the implementation of Mobility as a Service, a potential application of CAV, otherwise the overall value to the UK will be reduced.
66.Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) are responsible for the vast majority of UK roads and, together with the Traffic Commissioners for Great Britain, need training, briefing and guidance on standards for the roads sector relating to the deployment of CAV. LTAs must also be able to pool resources in order to minimise duplication of work and maximise potential benefits of CAV.
67.We recommend that the Government should set up and chair a forum that will allow LTAs to share knowledge and expertise on CAV and to be involved as advisers on the direction of future trials and research.
68.We were told that there was a skills shortage in the CAV sector, and more widely for RAS. The RAS 2020 strategy said:
“It will not be possible to achieve the vision in this strategy without a strong skill base. It is vitally important that investment is made at an early stage so that innovation is not starved of its primary resource.”
69.In October 2016, the Transport Systems Catapult published a report, Intelligent mobility skills strategy: Growing new markets in smarter transport. It concluded that, in the wider intelligent mobility sector, which encompasses CAV technologies, the UK faces a potential skills gap of 742,000 people by 2025. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, published in October 2016, echoed the findings of the Transport Systems Catapult.
70.Cranfield University told us that the shortage of engineers facing the UK threatened the development of CAV technology and the creation of applications for CAV. Professor Newman questioned the effectiveness of the UK’s education system in delivering people with the right skills for the CAV sector. He said:
“I cannot overstate the importance of this: we need about 10,000 more engineers a year. We need to plough money into universities to teach information engineering, data engineering and software. Our future economy is not going to be about bending pieces of metal or shaping plastic; it’s going to be about making weightless software.”
Investment to deliver people with the right skills for the CAV sector is also necessary in schools and in the further education sector.
71.In a similar vein the House of Lords Committee on Digital Skills concluded that there was a shortage of medium and high-level digital skills in the UK.
72.The Government made clear that it was aware of the skills gap and that it was considering actions to improve the situation. The DfT also told us that it had launched a Transport Infrastructure Skills Strategy, which included a commitment to 30,000 apprenticeships by the end of the Parliament in the road and rail sectors. The Higher Education and Research Bill when introduced to the House of Lords contained provisions which sought to promote new providers of Higher Education to help meet the national skills shortage. The Government hoped these provisions “will level the playing field for high quality new entrants, making it simpler and quicker for innovative and specialist providers to set up, award degrees and compete alongside existing institutions”. The Technical and Further Education Bill seeks to help “boost the country’s productivity by addressing skill shortages and ensuring high quality technical education”.
73.The Government must continue to take action to close the engineering and digital skills gap to ensure that the UK can benefit from the emerging CAV technologies. 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. These might include provisions such as those proposed in the Higher Education and Research Bill which aim to make it simpler and quicker for innovative and specialist providers to set up, award degrees and compete alongside existing institutions.
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25 (Iain Forbes)
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43 Written evidence from HM Government ()
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53 (Nick Hurd MP)
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56 Written evidence from Transport for London ()
57 (John Hayes CBE MP)
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