Smart Transport

Can everyone be a winner with transport and technology?

Stephen Joseph says decision-makers must take care to ensure the technologies they introduce will contribute to, rather than undermine, policies

One of the problems with having a programme called ‘Smart Transport’ is that many people coming to it fresh assume that it’s all about driverless cars and technology.

Those involved know by now, it’s about more than that – how technology and the private sector can support the wider objectives of local and national government – cutting congestion, tackling climate change and creating liveable and healthy communities. 

This means the huge advances in technology in transport can’t be accepted uncritically, or as an inevitable future for societies to accept, adapt to, encourage and welcome. 

There’s no doubt the advances in vehicle technology, the use of data and the new mobility services can bring great benefits.

But they also have downsides and can bring problems too – and could, in some circumstances, lead to societies and communities that no one will want to live in.

So, policymakers and politicians are going to look hard at technology and new mobility services and will regulate and manage them so they contribute to, rather than undermine, their wider policies. 

This is not a case of know-nothing politicians or officials getting in the way of progress – it is about ensuring technology contributes to the wider good of society. 

Take autonomous vehicles (AVs). The visions for these sometimes present a future where every vehicle on the road is fully autonomous and so deaths and injuries from road crashes will be eliminated, congestion will be a thing of the past, mobility for the elderly and disabled will be improved and areas taken up with parking spaces can be released for development. 

But these are only one version of the future with AVs.

It’s not hard to see how they might enable other futures. I once challenged a senior insurance company executive about conflicts between AVs and pedestrians and his response was to demand more controls on pedestrians and jaywalking, saying that UK pedestrians were particularly uncivilised and uncontrolled. 

However, this runs entirely counter to the direction of policy in most cities, which are busy promoting walking and cycling and cutting motor traffic.

They are doing this for wider policy reasons – to reduce obesity by increasing physical activity, to cut pollution and simply as a recognition that in cities, space is scarce and people walking and cycling and using buses or trams make more efficient use of this space than they do in motor vehicles, even if autonomous and electric. 

The good news is technologies can definitely help tackle climate change and contribute to other public policy objectives.

I’ve been struck by the huge growth in electric bikes. 

We have also seen growth in the use of electric scooters and other forms of “micromobility”, despite them not, in fact, being legal in the UK.

All this suggests that public demand and tastes may take mobility and transport in directions unexpected by either the private or public sectors.

However, policy and regulation can shape those tastes and trends.

Read Stephen Joseph's full article on transport and technology from Smart Transport Journal


Comment as guest

Login  /  Register


No comments have been made yet.

Office Address
  • Smart Transport
    Media House
    Lynch Wood
    PE2 6EA
Join the community
  • Smart Transport is the UK's most important brand to bring together senior public policy makers and influential private sector leaders to showcase real-time solutions aligned to government policy.
  • Find out more
  • Insight


Welcome to Smart Transport

Welcome to the Smart Transport website, keeping you up-to-date with the latest news, insight and reports from policymakers and thought leaders.

The Smart Transport brand connects policy to solutions by bringing national government and local authority policymakers together with private sector organisations.

Contact Lindsay Greatbatch for more information.

© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd
Media House, Lynch Wood, Peterborough, PE2 6EA - Registered number 01176085 IPSO regulated logo


Smart Transport members

Smart Transport board members


Please note:
By submitting any material to us you are confirming that the material is your own original work or that you have permission from the copyright owner to use the material and to authorise Bauer Consumer Media to use it as described in this paragraph. You also promise that you have permission from anyone featured or
referred to in the submitted material to it being used by Bauer Consumer Media. If Bauer Consumer Media receives a claim from a copyright owner or a person
featured in any material you have sent us, we will inform that person that you have granted us permission to use the relevant material and you will be responsible for paying any amounts due to the copyright owner or featured person and/or for reimbursing Bauer Consumer Media for any losses it has suffered as a result.