Smart Transport

Pandemic underlines the need for self-driving vehicles

Dr Daniel Ruiz

The effects of Covid-19 are already echoing around the world, and neither the automotive nor the connected and automated mobility (CAM) ecosystems are immune. 

In the US we’ve seen the likes of Waymo and Uber temporarily pause their testing programmes due to concerns for their in-car safety drivers, and Ford has delayed plans to launch its autonomous vehicle service in the UK until 2022.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has been providing a clear case for how self-driving vehicles, as part of automation more broadly, can be of benefit to society in difficult times.

As a result, we expect the automation sector to come out of this with optimism as companies rethink their supply chains and manufacturing processes in a post-pandemic world.

The current situation provides the catalyst for focusing efforts toward turning the promise of self-driving vehicles into a reality.

The opportunities for societal resilience, and the reduction of transmission of infection, on top of the other more obvious benefits of the technologies, show that the time to endlessly debate the hype is over. 

Instead, we need to focus on carrying out rigorous testing and development and approaching self-driving vehicle technologies with pragmatism and realism to ensure we are able to benefit from them now and in the future. 

The challenge is to recognise the need for investment in the infrastructure and R&D necessary to build on the UK’s momentum in connected and automated mobility.

Only then will the industry be able to create sustainable CAM services in the future.

Watch now: Connecting Policy To Solutions Virtual Conference 2021

Smart Transport Conference returned on June 8th & 9th, to facilitate pivotal discussions on the future of transport. 

The UK’s most senior public and private sector transport leaders discussed the impact of Covid-19, achieving the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions, the need for more efficient living and better health, and much more.

Keynote speakers included: 

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who spoke on BEIS's approach to decarbonising transport, particularly the electrification of the vehicle industry

Keith Williams, co-author of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, who spoke on rail’s role in integrated transport, decarbonisation and innovation.

Rachel Maclean, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport, who discussed the future of transport and its pivotal role in a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic.


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