As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend transport patterns worldwide, its lasting legacy presents a number of critical challenges for UK mobility, writes Chris Reeves, head of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies at Horiba Mira
From record demand for online shopping putting pressure on the nation’s logistics chain, through to massively reduced usage of public transport networks – new technologies, including connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), are going to be pivotal in helping transport to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, recover and adapt in the coming years.
Collaboration between the Government, industry and academia, will be essential to ensure both the robust performance of CAV breakthroughs and that the UK is a world-leader when it comes to CAV testing.
The economic impact of lockdown and a shift in consumer behaviour since the outbreak of Covid-19 has changed the face of mobility in the UK.
The way we move goods and people has changed dramatically and, in some cases, irreversibly.
It has opened the door to new mobility solutions and has the potential to accelerate technological development of connected and automated mobility (CAM) solutions.
However, we face multiple challenges in deploying CAM at scale.
But, with challenges, come opportunities, and with the correct strategy and the right level of collaboration, this could be the advent of a bright new future for UK mobility.
Before we can even begin to examine a potential route for recovery, we must first assess the impact so far.
Since lockdown, there has been a clear preference for the use of private vehicles over public transport such as, buses, trains and planes.
The need for social distancing and concerns over hygiene on trains and buses has resulted in a number of alarming statistics that indicate the public transport sector is in for a rough ride.
According to research conducted by McKinsey, overall ridership is down between 70% and 90% globally, while 40% of consumers said that, once the worst of the pandemic was over, they would fly less than before.
Similarly, 32% said they would travel less by train and the same number said they would travel more by car.
In contrast to the public transport downturn, our logistics network is stretched to capacity, with online shopping surging by 129% across the UK and Europe.
Many consumers say that they intend to continue buying online more frequently even when the pandemic is over, especially in grocery retail, where 40% of people say they will shop online more than they did before Covid-19, according to a survey by Waitrose.
The exponential demand experienced by the logistics sector during the pandemic is clearly set to continue.