VENTUREFEST discusses the impact of CAVs

22 September 2017

The events and details described in the scenario below are based on true events but in isolation only. They have been woven together in a fictitious manner to create the desired sense of narrative. Some facts however, may become a reality within a decade!

You’ve just stepped out of the shower and it’s a little before seven on 3 July. You’re late and the baby’s crying. The weather has just turned and you notice a bunch of missed calls on your phone. You’re hungry but still have a last-minute chore to do before leaving. Suddenly, you receive a text alert from Airbus and you immediately feel a sense of calm. That allows you to concentrate on the baby, who you’re able to send off to sleep, giving you enough time to get dressed, fill the dishwasher and grab your wallet, keys and energy bar. Within 15 minutes of receiving the text alert, you’re greeted on your drive by Pop.Up. You hop in and settle down for a relaxing journey across the city knowing you’ll arrive at your destination at your desired time. For your journey back to home, you take a trip in an autonomous ‘Pod on Demand’ and catch-up with a friend who’s joined you. You remember there’s no milk at home but before you realise, the POD has halted in front of a convenience store. You’ve left your wallet at your previous location. Unfortunately, your friend is literally just along for part of the ride – to keep you company – and has no cash!

You can imagine the rest of this person’s account but haven’t we made some assumptions here? The first one being, it’s early morning when the person is getting ready for work. It doesn’t actually state that. It could equally be the evening. Secondly, assuming it’s a day time account, why travel part of the way home with a friend? Because you haven’t seen them in ages and schedules allowed for them to be picked up by the POD so they could accompany you on your journey. The assumptions could go on. Nevertheless (and unconscious biases aside) this scenario can quite quickly become a reality thanks to the advancement and deployment of CAV technology, complemented by Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. Regarding the milk, that’s an easy one since your fridge spoke to your phone, which spoke to the POD, which was directed to the shop. No money? Don’t worry, you can request it gets billed to your POD account instead. By the way, the friend didn’t magically appear – they were chosen by an app that runs on AI, selecting the nearest friend en-route who’d specified a free slot in their schedule and was most likely to accept a request for a ride-along…

The third and final round table that FLOURISH facilitated in the run up to October’s Venturefest thought leadership conference (intelligent mobility themed) touched upon these and dozens more CAV impacts. The select group of industry professionals that attended debated the dynamics of shared mobility, mobility as a service, usership vs ownership and the ‘social need’ element of CAV transport and ultimately, the winners and losers that this disruptive but revolutionary mode of transport will bring, particularly from an economic perspective. The round table was timely because the Transport Systems Catapult Market Forecast for CAVs was published only a week before. The report describes the ten key technologies that form the constituent components of a CAV, most likely to develop as industry clusters. The round table also picked up on the indirect economic impacts of CAVs (alluded to by the report) however, not all of these were perceived as positive. A selection is summarised below.

There’s a paradox between CAVs increasing or decreasing traffic. Single vehicle occupancy will obviously increase road volume but shared ride services are likely to reduce congestion, at peak times at least. This then opens up new business models such as usership as opposed to ownership and may even alleviate parking problems, which is a cause of congestion in itself in urban centres. Electric vehicle technology was unanimously agreed by the group as a means to catalyse the mass deployment and adoption of CAVs. It’s this combination therefore that FLOURISH is utilising through the Lutz pod whilst conducting its trials. Data has always been perceived as ‘king’ but it is only as valuable as the wisdom it creates. One possible loser in such a world could be the [data] network operators, who are simply data pipes. The successful deployment of CAVs and associated paraphernalia could be dependent on location. For example, a new build with both residential and commercial zones would be an easier place to install CAV infrastructure rather than a historic city centre, which isn’t really designed to accommodate mass motor vehicles. Another often overlooked but key stakeholder to CAVs are the people that might need to re-skill themselves in order to maintain employment in traditional motor vehicle related industries. Will CAVs negate the need for aftermarket accessories or traditional mechanic type servicing?

One thing is for sure, CAVs are only a matter of when and not if. As someone who works for a local authority and is primarily concerned and motivated by generating economic opportunities for existing supply chains and attracting inward investment, there will be a huge disruptive impact on the way we as custodians of the [local] highway network design, build and manage the infrastructure upon which CAVs will operate. In doing so, we may need to consider the ramifications over the long term. The FLOURISH project is a great opportunity for us to do just that, where we believe people are equally if not more important than the artificial intelligence that may replace them (not literally).

The West of England is also strategically placed with its emerging CAV clusters and R&D/test capabilities to explore this, particularly through the consortium members, including Bristol City Council as the other local authority based in the area. It is therefore now only a matter of time until such changes to our everyday lives will become reality.

Authored by: Abdul Choudhury, South Gloucestershire Council

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