AVs Need National Standard, Says Addison Lee

A private hire firm has called for standardization of regulation across all local authorities to ensure safety in future robo-taxi services.

The call came in an interview with TU-Automotive by Andrew Wescott, head of regulatory and external affairs at Addison Lee, as he revealed the company’s finding from the MERGE Greenwich project that carried out simulated autonomous vehicle ride-sharing trials in south-east London and sought consumer opinion.

Wescott said the project showed that a set of national standards for private hire operators should be introduced across the UK and a national database of licensed private hire drivers to be set up. He said: “There are some authorities that are, let’s say, a bit freer in licensing and others that are a bit stricter.”

While admitting several trials of this type are currently being staged in the UK, he said: “The important thing for us is there’s a national approach that is then implemented at a local level. Because otherwise you might get some challenges in terms of the way you operate and also the way in which the transport system itself works. We’re not going to go overnight from manual to autonomous, there’ll be a staged process. Also, there’ll be a need to integrate that with existing transport networks. That needs that level of national structure first.”

Wescott added that MERGE Greenwich also found a “city mobility task force” would need to be set up for AV ride-sharing services to be deployed successfully across London. This would need to have a “national structure that involves public and private bodies”. He said legislation at the national level would be necessary “to provide the framework” for AVs to be rolled out across the UK’s towns and cities in a standardized way. He added that local authorities representing individual cities would not be the bodies best placed to enact this legislation but “combined authorities” representing entire regions such as north-west England would be a better solution.

However, on regulation of AV ride-sharing services run by private hire firms Wescott said a single body such as London’s Transport for London (TfL) should ensure safety standards are met. He claimed privately run AV ride-sharing services could become a solution in gaps with public transport services citing South Greenwich’s lack of public transport infrastructure compared with North Greenwich. Here, he suggested AVs could complement TfL’s services, ferrying people from the tubeless south to the north’s Jubilee Line London Underground station.

However, he said before AV ride-sharing schemes could achieve any significant success in London or the UK, the public’s trust concerns about sharing a vehicle with strangers would need to be addressed, explaining that MERGE Greenwich found significantly more respondents to its survey were worried about this aspect than getting into a vehicle driven by a robot.

Wescott said transport legislation needs to be updated to function with the coming advanced automotive technologies. He said: “Obviously, we’re using quite old legislation now, which ultimately sets the regulation.”


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