Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future? Contents

Chapter 3: Potential benefits of CAV

74.Our evidence cited a wide range of potential social and economic benefits connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) could bring. In this Chapter we consider those benefits most frequently mentioned and those that we believe will have the biggest impact: increased accessibility and mobility; improved road safety; transporting freight; reduced congestion; and economic benefits. The scale of the benefit which might accrue in each case cannot be determined without further research.

Increased accessibility and mobility

75.One of the most frequently cited benefits of CAV was the potential for increased accessibility and mobility for less mobile people unable to use traditional vehicles—such as the elderly or disabled.80 The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) said that CAV “can open up independent mobility for elderly and disabled travellers to help them achieve better health, social and economic outcomes”.81

76.Michael Hurwitz, Director of Transport Innovation at Transport for London, told us how “the accessibility potential is significant”.82 He said that of all Londoners, around 39% used the London Underground every week, but this dropped to 16% for the disabled community and 23% for those over 65.83 CAV have the potential therefore to provide alternative means of transport for those groups.

77.This increased social inclusion was not limited to the less mobile but could also improve public transport in remote rural areas. Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) said that CAV could “provide more efficient door-to-door solutions for public transport users and enable mass transit options to access more remote or dispersed communities and out-of-town employment areas, where it is currently unsustainable to provide a traditional public transport scheduled service”.84

78.However, Dr Hopkins said that the claim made about the elderly and disabled significantly benefiting from CAV was “particularly problematic”. She said that these benefits would “only accrue with level–5 automation”, which, according to some commentators, “will only become widely available after 2030”.85

79.In addition, in the light of their cost premium, Dr Hopkins queried whether CAV would be “affordable and acceptable” to the elderly and disabled.86 Claire Depré, Head of the Sustainable and Intelligent Transport Unit in DG Move at the European Commission, also acknowledged that this technology would be expensive when introduced, and stressed therefore that “we need to think about getting the benefit for society as a whole”.87

80.CAV have the potential to increase accessibility and mobility for those less mobile or those unable to use traditional vehicles, such as the elderly or disabled. However, they may not be suitable for some people with mobility problems, if, for example, they are unable to get into or out of a car without help. Furthermore, these benefits will only be realised with full automation and if the vehicles are both affordable and acceptable to prospective users.

Improved road safety

81.Another potential benefit expected from CAV was improved road safety. A number of witnesses highlighted that human error is a causal factor in 90–95% of road traffic accidents.88 CAV are expected to reduce such errors.

82.There are a number of uncertainties around the 90–95% figure. CAVT Ltd said that this figure came from the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHSTA) and that it was “unwise to apply USA data directly to UK conditions”, and that for the UK the human error figure in 2013 was considerably lower at 75%.89 It arrived at this figure by normalising DfT statistics, though it did not provide details on how this was done.

83.Regardless of the magnitude of the possible reduction of fatalities, our evidence highlighted examples of where CAV technology is already improving road safety.90 The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and Thatcham Research told us that “a VW Golf VII fitted with AEB [autonomous emergency breaking] technology was involved in 45% fewer insurance claims for third-party injury than equivalent vehicle models that did not have this technology”.91

84.The potential for increased road safety has also been acknowledged at the EU level. On 30 November 2016, the European Commission adopted A European strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems, a milestone towards cooperative, connected and automated mobility (see paragraphs 158–163).92 The strategy notes how in the very near future vehicles will interact directly with each other and road infrastructure, with such cooperation expected “to significantly improve road safety”.93

85.Referring to the strategy, Ms Depré suggested that in order to achieve increased road safety, the technology must be sophisticated and as good as—if not better—than a human’s ability to drive.94

86.Realising the benefits of increased road safety—by reducing human error—will depend on the level of automation and level of adoption. Ageas (UK) Limited told us that while the introduction of CAV “is likely to reduce the number of accidents over time”, human error is only going to be removed altogether “once all vehicles on the roads are autonomous, which may take many decades”.95

87.CAV have the potential to lower the number of road fatalities. But the eradication, or near eradication, of human error will only be realised with full automation. CAV are not the only way to reduce road casualties. There are other means by which to achieve this and we urge the Government not to lose sight of these other possibilities.

Transporting freight

88.Lorry platooning was highlighted as an early example of CAV close to deployment. Platooning is where one lorry leads and makes the decisions for those behind that are wirelessly connected to form a road-train. The European Commission-funded Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project96 has already trialled platooning on three motorway routes in northern Europe.

89.Platooning was said to bring benefits in relation to fuel economy, the environment, safety and congestion.97 Mike Wilson, Chief Highways Engineer at Highways England, said: “Potentially it has significant benefits, not only in efficiently moving the lorries around the network—the trials that have been undertaken elsewhere have demonstrated efficiency with vehicles travelling closer together, they are more fuel-efficient because the wind resistance on the following vehicles is less”.98 Mike Hawes, Chief Executive Officer of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), told us that “HGVs may be one of the first elements of road transport that will take advantage of [CAV] technologies because … if you are a road haulage operator, you are very interested in what your pence per mile rate is [and] you can have a benefit in fuel economy by platooning”.99

90.However, Charlie Henderson, Partner at PA Consulting Group, told us that he believes there are business model challenges for platooning because it still requires there to be a driver in vehicle: “The business model is, as a fleet operator, you still have a driver sitting in the vehicle, so you are still paying for the driver. Do you pay them less because they are not driving a chunk?”100

91.Mr Wilson also highlighted potential challenges relating to road maintenance: “[I]f all of these vehicles are travelling in a single wheel path, they could have a bigger impact on the integrity of the road pavement itself … that part of the road will suffer the greater loads and is likely to need maintenance first.”101

92.Our evidence indicates that platooning of trucks could be an early example of CAV deployment on roads and the Government should ensure that it carries out an early evaluation of the potential applications of connected and autonomous larger vehicles used for freight and logistics. The Government must ensure that a clear business case for platooning—and indeed for any CAV application—has been made before significant investment is made.

Reduced congestion

93.Many witnesses told us that CAV for the roads sector are expected to improve traffic conditions and reduce congestion.102 Mr Capes said that there was an “obvious benefit in network optimisation”, with CAV “being able to smooth out the way in which vehicles drive”.103 As a result, he said this would “allow vehicles potentially to drive more closely together and allow capacity in the current highway network to be increased”.104

94.We also heard how the use of data collected by CAV could have a positive impact on reducing congestion.105 Mr Capes told us that CAV would provide authorities such as York with much bigger data sets, allowing them to do things such as “configure the way urban traffic control works better”.106 He added that York was involved in a Government-funded trial to see how large data sets could potentially help “influence the way we manage traffic signals in the city and the way we manage congestion”; he described this as “probably a very early win” in the move towards autonomy.107

95.In its report, How autonomous vehicles could relieve or worsen traffic congestion—more detail of which is summarised in Appendix 7—HERE (a business which provides mapping data, technologies and services to the automotive, consumer and enterprise sectors) describes the potential for CAV to help—or hinder—congestion in the short, medium and long term.108 The type of impact will depend on the level of autonomy enabled and the level of adoption achieved. The report states that the longer-term outlook for CAV is “paradoxically easier to forecast than the medium-term”.109 This is because, in the medium term, a mixed fleet of vehicles is likely to be operating on UK roads, including vehicles with no autonomous driving technology, vehicles with Advanced Driver Assistance Technology (ADAS) that are capable of autonomous travel in certain circumstances, and vehicles that are wholly autonomous.110

96.The theoretical potential of CAV to reduce traffic congestion varies depending on the level of vehicle autonomy and the penetration rate. While we cannot say with any certainty what the impact on congestion will be, it is possible to imagine a situation of total gridlock as CAV crawl around city centres. It is important that the right policy decisions relating to CAV are made in order to reduce the likelihood of this occurring.

Economic benefits

97.We heard that CAV could offer a great market opportunity.111 Mr Hawes said that the SMMT and KPMG had carried out research in 2015 that put the benefit to the UK economy “at £51 billion to GDP [gross domestic product] per annum”.112 Mr Hawes qualified this figure by saying that only £1–2 billion of that would “naturally accrue to the automotive sector”, with the remaining £49 billion being “up for grabs, given the potential monetisation of connected vehicles, data and issues such as that”.113

98.Other witnesses provided similar figures. Transport Systems Catapult said that a conservative estimate for the current market opportunity in the UK was £4.8 billion per annum in 2016, rising to £50 billion by 2025.114 The Government’s evidence quoted an industry estimate, which suggested that if the UK could consolidate its early leadership position, “success could be worth up to £51bn annually in socio-economic benefits to the UK by 2030”.115 However, this £51 billion is not predicted to arise from direct financial benefits. The joint report from KPMG and the SMMT, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The UK Economic Opportunity, which calculated the figure explained:

“Most of the benefits accrue to consumers who experience a transformation in the ease at which they can travel, which in turn generates wider economic benefits, such as fewer accidents, improved productivity and increased trade.”116

99.Rolls-Royce said that the greater use of autonomous marine vessels could save the global marine industry up to £80 billion per annum by “potential reductions in capital costs, manning costs and fuel costs”.117

100.There was some scepticism about the possible market opportunity. While acknowledging that several “reputable organisations” had offered “fairly firm predictions of future market sizes”, ITS United Kingdom said that there were “too many unknowns”.118 As a consequence, it said it was not possible “to make any firm predictions in monetary terms” and that the figures provided so far “should at most be taken as a very rough guide”.119

101.While we did receive some evidence on the potential economic disadvantages of CAV, this was minimal and not substantiated. In the main, this evidence suggested that CAV could result in job losses (see paragraph 107).120

102.Whilst some of our evidence has suggested that CAV could have huge economic benefits, we are not convinced that the statistics provided have been properly substantiated.

103.We recommend that the Government should commission a detailed cost-benefit analysis to provide a realistic indication of the economic benefits CAV could provide in all sectors, differentiating clearly between the different applications of CAV, actual monetary gains from deployment, estimated job creation and social benefits. This will help the Government decide where the focus of its efforts should be.

104.One possible economic and social benefit of CAV may be job creation. The SMMT said it estimated up to 320,000 new jobs being created in the UK. Of these new jobs, 25,000 would be created in automotive manufacturing, with the remaining jobs created across adjacent sectors, including the tech sector and telecommunications.121 It will be important that people have the necessary skills in order to do these new jobs, which may be problematic given the current shortage of key engineering and digital skills (see paragraphs 82–87).

105.When we challenged the SMMT on its estimate of 320,000 new jobs, Mr Hawes explained that it was necessary to distinguish between connected vehicles and autonomous vehicles. He said that while the former would create new jobs, the latter would lead to a shift in jobs.122

106.John Hayes MP expressed a similar view that there would be job shifting. He told us that while he did not think there would be a reduction in employment in net terms, “we may well see change”.123

107.Other witnesses told us that autonomous vehicles would lead to job losses. Enders Analysis said: “Automation will likely lead to the loss of many jobs in the transportation sector, notably in low-wage positions such as taxi and bus drivers.”124

108.It is unclear whether CAV will lead to job creation or job losses overall. The cost-benefit analysis that we have recommended should include detailed consideration of the impact of CAV on jobs; specifically whether this will include job losses, job creation or job shifts.

Lack of evidence for potential benefits

109.The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) highlighted that:

“There is relatively little data available to substantiate the listed potential benefits and there [may be] unintended consequences that could provide dis-benefits.”125

110.There is little hard evidence to substantiate the potential benefits and disadvantages of CAV because most of them are at a prototype or testing stage. Furthermore, as with any new technology or advancements, there may be unforeseen benefits or disadvantages that have not yet presented themselves.

111.Nonetheless, the UK’s ambition should be to take the lead with CAV in areas where a business case can be made which shows a clear early advantage accruing to the UK.

80 Q 64 (John Hayes CBE MP) and written evidence from RazorSecure Limited (AUV0018), the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) (AUV0032), the British Parking Association (BPA) (AUV0038) and Weightmans (AUV0080)

81 Written evidence from the TRL (AUV0039)

82 Q 44 (Michael Hurwitz)

83 Q 44 (Michael Hurwitz)

84 Written evidence from TfGM (AUV0027). See also Q 44 (Darren Capes): “Certainly rural authorities are finding it increasingly hard to provide high-quality bus services into rural communities. The demographic of the rural communities is ageing faster than the city communities, and we face a real issue around how we provide transport for those communities. Autonomy has a real role to play in allowing people currently excluded from car-driving to have some form of personal mobility. For rural communities that is a real plus point.”

85 Written evidence from Dr Debbie Hopkins, University of Oxford (AUV0021)

86 Written evidence from Dr Debbie Hopkins, University of Oxford (AUV0021)

87 Q 22 (Claire Depré)

88 Q 27 (Mike Hawes), 32 (John McCarthy and Prof Nick Reed), Q 64 (John Hayes CBE MP) and written evidence from AXA UK (AUV0017), BMF (AUV0019), Ageas (UK) Limited (AUV0042) and the ABI and Thatcham Research (AUV0051)

89 Written evidence from CAVT Ltd (AUV0061)

90 Q 41 (Michael Hurwitz)

91 Written evidence from the ABI and Thatcham Research (AUV0051)

92 European Commission, ‘Intelligent transport systems: Cooperative, connected and automated mobility (C-ITS)’: [accessed 13 December 2016]

93 Communication from the Commission on A European strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems, a milestone towards cooperative, connected and automated mobility, COM(2016) 766

94 Q 22 (Claire Depré)

95 Written evidence from Ageas (UK) Limited (AUV0042). See also written evidence from Dr Tom Cohen and Dr Clemence Cavoli, UCL (AUV0070)

96 The SARTRE project: [accessed 16 December 2016]

97 Q 21 (Mike Hawes) and written evidence from the RAC Foundation (AUV0024), Atkins (AUV0047), the SMMT (AUV0058), CIHT (AUV0082) and the RoSPA (AUV0025)

98 Q 49 (Mike Wilson)

99 Q 21 (Mike Hawes)

100 Q 49 (Charlie Henderson)

101 Q 49 (Mike Wilson)

102 Q 22 (Dr Hermann Meyer), Q 49 (Mike Wilson) and written evidence from the RAC (AUV0011), RAC Foundation (AUV0024), the RoSPA (AUV0025), Ageas (UK) Limited (AUV0042), Zurich Insurance plc (AUV0068) and Weightmans (AUV0080)

103 Q 41 (Darren Capes)

104 Q 41 (Darren Capes)

105 Q 54 (Mike Wilson)

106 Q 46 (Darren Capes)

107 Q 46 (Darren Capes)

108 HERE, How autonomous vehicles could relieve or worsen traffic congestion (2016): [accessed 28 December 2016]

109 HERE, How autonomous vehicles could relieve or worsen traffic congestion (2016): [accessed 28 December 2016]

110 Written evidence from Ageas (UK) Ltd (AUV0042)

111 Written evidence from Ageas (UK) Limited (AUV0042), CIHT (AUV0082) and SmarterUK (AUV0089)

112 Q 21 (Mike Hawes)

113 21 (Mike Hawes)

114 Written evidence from Transport Systems Catapult (AUV0071)

115 Written evidence from HM Government (AUV0084)

116 KPMG and the SMMT, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The UK Economic Opportunity (March 2015): [accessed 12 January 2017]

117 Written evidence from Rolls-Royce (AUV0083)

118 Written evidence from ITS United Kingdom (AUV0036)

119 Written evidence from ITS United Kingdom (AUV0036). See also written evidence from CIHT (AUV0082): “However we believe that the scale of the market would depend on the depreciation of current fleet and cost of replacing conventional cars with the technology and the provision of appropriate support infrastructure. It is envisaged that these vehicles will cost more than conventional vehicles as manufactures add the electronic functionality and other complexities needed to operate them therefore impacting on affordability.”

120 Q 26 (Claire Depré)

121 Written evidence from the SMMT (AUV0058)

122 Q 26 (Mike Hawes)

123 Q 73 (John Hayes CBE MP)

124 Written evidence from Enders Analysis (AUV0085)

125 Written evidence from the CIHT (AUV0082)

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