UK government launches plan to lead ‘profound change’ in mobility

The UK has launched its plan to lead a ‘profound change’ in future mobility aimed towards improving transport while reducing congestion and emissions.

As part of the ‘Future of Mobility Grand Challenge’ set out today in two documents, the government highlights that UK travel will change dramatically with innovations such as flying vehicles and self-driving cars.

Transport Minister Jesse Norman said:

“The UK has a long and proud history of leading the world in transport innovation and our Future of Mobility Grand Challenge is designed to ensure this continues.

We are on the cusp of an exciting and profound change in how people, goods and services move around the country which is set to be driven by extraordinary innovation.

This could bring significant benefits to people right across the country and presents enormous economic opportunities for the UK, with autonomous vehicles sales set to be worth up to £52 billion by 2035.

Our Last Mile call for evidence and Future of Mobility call for evidence mark just one stage in our push to make the most of these inviting opportunities.”

The plan foresees the adoption of these technologies removing the need for the majority of parking spaces as car ownership decreases in favour of on-demand rentals and there are fewer vehicles left on the road for the most part of a day.

Reducing the number of parking spaces, the plan notes, will enable these areas to be used for more pressing needs such as housing.

Seven focus areas have been identified that will shape the future of UK transport:

  • Cleaner transport – The government aims for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.

  • Automation – The government is aiming for fully self-driving cars on UK roads by 2021 delivering benefits such as increased safety, improved accessibility, and better use of urban space.

  • Data and connectivity – V2X (Vehicle-to-Infrastructure) technology will enable connected vehicles to communicate with traffic lights and motorway signs to reduce traffic and improve air quality.

  • New transport methods – UK cities are using drones to support emergency services and conduct infrastructure inspections, but aerial passenger vehicles could appear in urban areas for rapid on-demand transport.

  • Shared mobility – Much like ‘Uber Pool’ for car-sharing, more use of shared transport in tandem with driverless technologies could reduce congestion and emissions.

  • Changing consumer attitudes – More users are now expecting to be able to plan, book, and pay for transport through their devices.

  • New business models – New models such as Mobility-as-a-Service (Maas) are emerging where a subscription could be paid monthly for access to multiple modes of connected transport.

Alongside the announcement of its Future of Mobility Grand Challenge plan, the government has appointed BMW UK Chief Executive Ian Robertson as ‘Future of Mobility Business Champion’ to help advise and promote the initiative.

On his appointment, Robertson commented:

“A transport revolution in the way people and goods move around will see more changes in the next 10 years than the previous hundred.

As the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge Business Champion, I’m looking forward to working with the government to help the UK build on its existing strengths and capitalise on that opportunity.”

Many citizens remain concerned about the safety of autonomous vehicles, especially following high-profile incidents such as the Uber self-driving vehicle accident in Pittsburgh which led to a pedestrian fatality.

Human error remains the most common cause of accidents whether it’s through inebriation, medical problems at the wheel, or reckless driving. Self-driving technologies will improve road safety but represents a profound change that faces some resistance.

The government is setting aside £12.1 million of funding towards six projects:

  • OmniCAV, £2.7m grant, £3.9m project

  • COSMOS, £1.7m grant, £2.7m project

  • VeriCAV, £2.4m grant, £3.4m project

  • D-RISK, £3m grant, £3.8m project

  • Simulation of Complex Off-Road Environments, £0.9m grant, £1.2m project

  • Sim4SafeCAV, £1.4m grant, £2.0m project

The projects are working on simulation and modelling to aid in developing, testing, and proving the safety of connected and autonomous vehicles.

Launching the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge is part of the UK’s wider Industrial Strategy and will be welcome by innovators in the space to know the government is putting its weight behind projects.

What are your thoughts on the Future of Mobility strategy? Let us know in the comments.

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