In September last year, Londoners were treated to an exciting glimpse into the future of self-driving transport. A fleet of highly-automated vehicles, proudly demonstrated at Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, showcased their ability to easily manoeuvre around complex urban landscapes.
However, as impressive a spectacle as this was to witness, the road to fully-fledged self-driving services is a long one. There is still plenty to do if we are to achieve widespread connected and automated mobility in Britain.
Through the development of Zenzic’s UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap 2030, it has become clear that services will not be successful in the long-run through vehicle-based systems alone. We will need to see extensive roadside infrastructure developed, along with a robust wireless communications network, to support the safe roll-out of self-driving fleets.
The driving force behind self-driving vehicle development is, above all other considerations, safety. Therefore, safety use cases are the priority for the next generation of infrastructure to support self-driving vehicles. This infrastructure is not just roadside and not just static; it is the aggregate of all infrastructure types and states. It includes the interconnectivity of vehicles to help each self-driving vehicle understand its environment when travelling, i.e. sharing data with nearby vehicles to let them know about hazards on the road – unlocking the potential of the hive mind. A key component of safety-related infrastructure is a well-integrated communications network. It will form an important framework which will underpin the data-sharing needed for self-driving safety cases.
The clock is ticking because, as is detailed within the roadmap, these networks will need to be defined by 2020 in order to achieve the first service using safety messages across the vehicle community by 2026. By 2029, our analysis has predicted that 80% of the strategic road network (SRN) will be covered by a safety communications network. The SRN is an important advantage for the UK. It accounts for 2% of the road network by length, yet it handles 30% of all traffic and 66% of haulage.
This means the UK can cover a large portion of its busiest roadways with a comparatively small amount of infrastructure. Compared with larger countries this will lead to the UK being able to benefit from connected and automated mobility (CAM) services earlier. Due to this, the SRN will also be where consumers and businesses will likely encounter CAM first. Once in place, this intricate communications network will enable cross-organisational data-sharing – a crucial first step on the road to CAM. Data-sharing is another factor which requires immediate attention as our roadmap shows this will need to be established in the next two years.
The value of the CAM services that we’ll eventually see in the UK will become increasingly defined by the quality of data and the insights generated from this data-sharing network. Strict management of this data is critical to ensuring security and safety are maintained, while data-generating organisations must feel they can genuinely benefit from the evolution and enrichment of their data through sharing. This is where the UK’s global leadership in digital resilience is another asset.
Find out how the UK will be able to benefit from connected and automated mobility (CAM) services earlier, read CAM era and the ‘naked’ highway (PDF), taken from the Smart Transport Journal.