UK Government Outlines Future Urban Mobility Strategy

The UK government has set out its goals for transportation in a new report Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy, claiming “advances in data science, artificial intelligence and sensing technology have increased the speed of transport innovation”.

It also stressed that the regulations regarding transport must keep up with the increasing progress in autonomous vehicles and smart mobility. It’s clear the government wants the UK to transition to electric vehicles over the next few decades, with the report reinforcing the fact that by 2040 “effectively every vehicle” sold in the UK will be electric. Additionally, Stagecoach Group CEO Sir Brian Souter is anticipating cost savings with robots replacing humans in his business because “with wages currently amounting to around 60% of costs for bus companies, and fuel another 10%, future buses that are automated and electric could halve the current cost of operations”.

Self-driving cars, meanwhile, could reduce congestion on roads, possibly by more than 20% if the quoted findings are to be believed. However, this is in stark contrast to a recent study which found autonomous vehicles will, instead, add to congestion as self-driving taxis become more prevalent in city centers.

With the release of the report, the government will embark on a comprehensive review of transportation regulations, looking at every aspect of transport in the UK. Alongside this, it has outlined how it intends to spur innovation within transport and mobility, modernizing laws for buses, taxis and trains which may be stifling innovative approaches to progress in public transportation. Additionally, the report hinted it will look at how ride-sharing services, such as Uber, can help reduce congestion through having multiple passengers in the same vehicle at the same time, as well as how hired electric scooters can provide an easy mode of transport for short urban journeys.

Meanwhile, £90M ($119M) is on offer for UK cities interested in delivering Future Mobility Zones, designed to showcase innovative approaches to mobility and transport. This is part of the Transforming Cities Fund, with the government aiming to have four Zones by the end of 2019, with each successful city required to design its Zone so it can be easily exported to other areas.

Finally, vehicle data will be harnessed and shared by multiple groups, helping to create standards and platforms rather than isolated approaches in each region. The report stressed the importance of data being as open and accessible as possible to inform planning officials on how to design services and schemes in the best possible way.

Responding to the report, director of campaigns for Brake, Joshua Harris said: “New technologies in motorized transport, such as driverless cars, offer us huge prizes for safety, accessibility and connectivity but in the rush to take advantage of emerging tech we must keep sight of the main priority: the needs of people. Cars, vans and lorries have dominated our urban landscape for far too long, taking space away from people and creating an environment full of pollution and danger. We support the government’s assertion that walking, cycling and active travel must remain the best options for short urban journeys but significant investment is needed to make this goal a reality.”

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