Exploring the potential role of CAVs in the West of England

26th April 2017

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) – or Cooperative and Automated Vehicles if you’re in Europe – are now a common theme in the media, not just in industry publications, but in the mainstream news as well.

You may recall that CAVs featured in the Queen’s speech last year and tens of millions of pounds were earmarked for research & development (R&D) grants in the most recent autumn statement. However, what does that all mean for the West of England region? Well, in simple terms, it could mean there is an increased level of CAV related R&D that takes place here – whether through Innovate UK funded projects like FLOURISH or by private companies that are exploring artificial intelligence or chip design.

More significantly however, before the mass adoption of CAV technology in the region, this interim period of a decade (or two) is an exhilarating time because it allows existing supply chains to evolve and acts as a catalyst for new firms to locate here, to get a slice of the action. You could argue that we are competing with other UK regions, but in reality the UK as a whole is competing on a global stage to become a test bed for CAV R&D.

In terms of actual applications, these are also being investigated (such as in FLOURISH) by public sector bodies and developers, who are now required to think about future-proofing new developments (i.e. Filton Airfield in South Gloucestershire) and manage how historic urban centres (like the City of Bristol) can better cope with an increasing population, growing economy and more pressure on finite transport connectivity.

So, it seems that increased automation of mobility is fairly inevitable. The questions for local authorities, residents, potential passengers and companies will be “what will it mean for me?”. FLOURISH is trying to answer some of these questions by looking at how CAVs could act at a local and city scale whilst also exploring how to use this technology to counteract issues around congestion, air quality, road safety and accessibility.

By modelling how CAVs respond with different levels of take-up, we will be able to predict how these problems could evolve in the coming years, allowing us to build this in to our future planning. From an insurance and legal perspective, there is a great deal of interest in how CAVs could make roads safer by reducing collisions caused by drivers. FLOURISH will also focus on how CAVs could help provide accessibility to groups, such as older people, who can be excluded from some modes of transport at present. This will allow us to understand how the potential benefits of CAVs can be shared by the greatest numbers of people.

There are lots of potential economic and social benefits from developing CAVs, but we can’t be complacent and need to ensure that we understand the technologies fully. This is where the FLOURISH project can help shed light on what is one of the most exciting new technologies our generation will see.

Authored by:

Abdul Choudhury, South Gloucestershire Council

Matthew Cockburn, Bristol City Council

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