How will these developments affect everyday life? How will they alter our travel patterns? Will they even change the shape of the places we live?
That role falls to local leaders, especially elected members whose job it is to reflect on how technological trends could affect their area and how these developments could be harnessed to solve other problems.
It is the job of councils to plan the future shape of our settlements. With government targets demanding the highest house building rates in generations, where will these homes go? How they will look and how we will move around them? These will be key questions.
We will need to consider how transport technology will influence those choices. We will also need considerable thinking about the infrastructure that will be required to facilitate these changes.
We hope that this guide will serve as a useful primer to get local politicians and senior officers thinking about the impact on their area, whether that is looking at the design standards for new homes or reconsidering their spatial plans. The LGA is seeking to work with councils in leading this conversation in the coming years and we will be planning further work to examine specific steps we can take in the near term.
It is difficult to be precise as to how councils may want to plan for and respond to the technological trends highlighted in this paper. New national laws and regulations will have a big influence but, working with councils, the LGA can help to shape those for the benefit of local government and their communities.
Different areas will have to react to this agenda differently. The rates and level of adoption will vary as will the type of technology, but this is something that councils may be able to influence through the services they provide, such as planning policy, their purchasing power and through their community and economic leadership role. Councils will also have to take a view on whether to encourage the adoption of new technology through their decisions on infrastructure.
Whatever infrastructure decisions councils take they will need to be confident that investments will be future proof. There is an immediate challenge for councils to help encourage the growth of electric vehicle infrastructure. There is real desire among councils to help foster this agenda. However, there is also considerable uncertainty about which model is best for the installation of new charging infrastructure, how ownership of the infrastructure should work and what legal framework councils are operating within.
The LGA intends to work with OLEV and other experts in the coming months to ensure that councils have access to the necessary technical and detailed advice to help them with their efforts to roll out charging infrastructure. There are significant opportunities with connected technologies to innovate and improve services and performance.
A number of councils are making use of these opportunities to pair with technology providers to innovate in particular around viewing service performance in real time. By seeing performance in real time, transport systems can become more responsive and efficient. We have highlighted some of the ways councils are using technology to solve policy problems. There is still disagreement about the extent to which automated transport will take off.
Recent accidents and fatalities involving fully automated trials would suggest that full automation is still some way from being accepted by the public and lawmakers. However, even though there are doubts about the implementation of fully automated vehicles, we are still likely to see considerable progress in electrification, connectivity and automation. It has the potential to transform the basis on which we provide many traditional local government services, including highways services.
For example, highways infrastructure is currently designed to give information to a human and guide and constrain their behaviour. Newer vehicles may not need visual information in the same way. As operators of substantial fleets, councils will have a direct role in procuring electric vehicles and easing the transition to a more automated way of working.
Connectivity presents an opportunity to receive real time information on vehicle movements to help manage traffic flows. It easy to see that there will be many other examples of how services will be reimagined.