Major opportunities

Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) and Electric Vehicles (EVs) are here. By planning and adopting advanced technologies such as CAVs and EVs - which through their enhanced operational performance have the potential to maximise the utilisation of space, can start to change our approach to the concept of how transport operations will work.

A phased approach should be employed by authorities to modify and provide the infrastructure to enable CAVs and EVs. For example, modelling the impacts of more widespread CAV and EV adoption in our towns and cities will help to understand how the increasingly complex technology will need to be supported and the wider impacts onto residents and society.  Providing assurance that the technology is safe and resilient, built on robust testing and validation, is key.

Preparing now for this transition is key as there are likely to be distinct stages until CAVs/EVs and other emerging technologies are default choices, with driven vehicles then in the minority. Ultimately, the destination is the same, so it is important that in developing digital technology and infrastructure we invest wisely for the long term and avoid short-sighted investment which inhibits our ability to achieve our future vision or even unnecessarily incurs higher spend on conventional infrastructure designed to last far longer than may now be necessary.

Local authorities need a strategy to seize the opportunities presented by these emerging trends, but also mitigate the potential risks.

Respondents in our Digital Reality report said that their organisations were more than two years away from having digital ways of working and service offerings fully embedded, with around a quarter stating that they were more than five years away.

And yet the message from the industry is clear - disrupt or be disrupted. If we can’t collectively overcome our aversion to risk, then delivering world-class, modern infrastructure for less cost will not be achieved and we’ll be left behind. We need to move quickly and responsibly.

Managing the change

To enable this level of change, collaboration is key: transport operators, transport and infrastructure providers, manufacturers, service providers, enterprises of all sizes, Government and the public sector - need to work to a clear vision, unite and come together to create a new intelligent mobility sector that is capable of planning and delivering for the short to long term. 

Some of the considerations for the short, medium and long term might include:

SHORT TERM: EVs are the first stage and are here now. The challenge is how to facilitate their sustainable growth and to understand the role of EVs in a rapidly evolving and growing sector that will provide greater choice by opening up the provision of responsive, frictionless travel options and information across all modes of transport.

  • More battery charging facilities will be required – these need to be developed at home, at work and in public spaces including car parks, retail outlets, fuel station forecourts, motorway services, depots and terminals. There will be some work to achieve a sensible standardisation across the sector to ensure efficient investment and ease of adoption.
  • Charging points are considered for most new buildings or urban developments, but for the scale required the majority will need to be retrofitted onto existing infrastructure.
  • Consideration of how to plan and efficiently design on different infrastructure in both the short, medium and long term will need to be made. For example:
    • Battery technology will influence the speed and scale of the charging network.
    • Faster charging, longer life batteries could reduce the number of charging points required in public spaces.
    • Hybrid vehicles that can self-charge – potentially powered by a low carbon fuel such as hydrogen – could also remove the need for traditional ‘charging points’.
  • As the number of electric vehicles increases, there will be a requirement for increased energy provision – either through demand management or additional generation capacity
  • Communication systems within the vehicles and with the infrastructure network will need to be future proofed to meet the requirements of a rapidly 'connected' world and to ensure that vehicles operate safely and securely on transport infrastructure - especially when vehicles move from one country to another, or involve multiple vehicles and fleets.
  • Local authorities may need to consider the impact on urban demand of the increased adoption of EVs and the knock on improvements in local air quality
  • Testing and validation of the role of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles will continue during this time
  • Cyber security measures should be implicit and specifically designed for all 'smart' vehicles at the design stage

MEDIUM TERM: The second stage is Connected Vehicles (CVs), where they securely and seamlessly connect to the infrastructure around them.

  • Intelligent sensors and analysis of the data from the vehicle will increasingly become the norm
  • Data centres to handle the vast quantities of information that the vehicles need to function - standardisation will ensure that clear data standards are met.
  • Universal 5G coverage will be key to ensure fast and continuous connection to the internet
  • Connectivity will necessitate cyber security - essential to ensuring that the network of vehicles remain safe and secure
  • Further energy requirements to power the connectivity and data centres.
  • Greater interoperability between transport services delivered by, or for people, places and goods
  • Testing and validation trials including technology 'proof of concept' 

LONGER TERM: The final stage is for connected vehicles to achieve high levels of automation (become autonomous), removing the need for infrastructure which exists simply to aid drivers. Demand for mobility services will drive transport models and impact vehicle ownership.

  • Fewer signs, traffic lights and street furniture (for local authorities, some asset investment made now may become obsolete before the expiry of a typical 30-40 year usable economic life)
  • More sensors / network connectivity
  • Higher utilised, shared vehicles reduces the need for car parking and means urban spaces can be used in different ways
  • Cities will need to consider the safe execution of ‘handover zones’, where autonomous vehicles switch to human control
  • Local authorities will need to ensure that rural transport solutions are maintained/improved under new business models – this may need pump prime investment
  • Local policy will need to keep pace with technology developments to ensure communities have access to the opportunities and remain competitive
  • More flexible road space – traffic can react to the quantity of journeys at any one time, so changes the road layout (e.g. no painted lines).
  • Communication systems co-exist in our more 'connected' world so that people can travel seamlessly and safely from A-B, across multiple modes of travel, with real time information that ultimately benefits the journeys of people and goods.

Andrew Flood is the Intelligent Mobility Director for Atkins (UK and Europe), a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group.

For more information on intelligent mobility (iM with Atkins) please visit our iM hub: www.atkinsglobal/im