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Report urges action to support automated vehicles

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Government must take action to prepare for the deployment of fully automated road vehicles and ensure the UK receives maximum economic benefit according to a new report.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee launched its new report ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: The future?’ this week, setting out a range of policy and investment recommendations.

“Connected and Autonomous Vehicles is a fast moving area of technology and the Government has much to do, alongside industry and other partners, to position the UK so that it can take full advantage of the opportunities,” said the committee’s chairman the Earl of Selborne.

The report calls on the Government to ensure the UK is an attractive place for automotive manufacturers and new market entrants to carry out their research and development for CAVs.

Recommended measures to achieve this include investing in fundamental scientific research in robotics and information technology and establishing one or more large scale testing environments for CAVs covering real world urban and rural environments.

The report also recommends that mobile coverage on UK roads will need to be improved to support CAVs and says Government, Highways England and local transport authorities should engage with industry to future proof new infrastructure.

Furthermore the report highlights that many of the key social, behavioural and ethical questions relating to autonomous cars remain unanswered and require further research.

For example it suggests that autonomous cars could make drivers complacent and overly reliant on technology, which is of particular concern in emergency situations where they may react slowly to taking back control of a vehicle.

The Government should give priority to commissioning and encouraging research studying behavioural questions and ensure it is an integral part of any trials it funds, the report says.

Lord Selborne added: “In order to ensure that the UK can benefit from emerging CAV technologies the Government must continue to take action to close the engineering and digital skills gap.”

The report also calls for the establishment of a Robotics and Autonomous Systems Leadership Council to coordinate strategy and share information across the different sectors that could benefit from CAV technology.

A Department for Transport response read: “Britain can lead the way in the development of autonomous vehicles that have the potential to transform the way we travel.

“Automated vehicles could make our roads even safer and easier to use, as well as promising new mobility for those who cannot drive. We have committed over £200M to research and development and are also changing regulations to unblock barriers to this exciting new technology.

“We will respond to this report in due course.”

ITS (UK) gave evidence to the Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry, which has been incorporated into the report.