A new report into the future of transport in London is calling for technology to be used to improve the city’s transport system and says that driverless cars are still more than a decade away from being on the road.
Saying that London is in the midst of a major transport upheaval because of “drones, droids and driverless cars,” it the London Assembly Transport Committee says Transport for London needs to predict and prepare for changes in technology.
Its report ‘Future Transport: How is London responding to technological innovation?’ reveals what they call some “interesting” findings including:
- Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) or driverless cars won’t be on the road until the 2030s at least and could add to congestion
- Dockless cycle schemes need to be able to operate across London to be effective
- There is no control system in place for drones and droids
- TfL is monitoring technological developments but this needs to be embedded across the whole organisation
The report says there have been recent failures in London’s preparations for innovative transport services, notably the rapid growth of private hire operator Uber and the disruptive launch of dockless cycle hire service oBike.
The Transport Committee report recommends the Mayor, TfL and government should:
- Consider the potential development and impact of autonomous bus technology
- Examine whether to introduce a London-wide licensing regime for dockless cycle hire
- Develop the principles of a new regulatory regime for demand-responsive bus services
- Ensure data produced by apps powered by underlying TfL data is shared with TfL
- Consider an integrated control system for ground-based autonomous vehicles and airborne drones
Keith Prince AM, Conservative Chairman of the Committee said, “Autonomous vehicles could make roads safer. Dockless bikes could spread the benefits of cycling to the whole city and demand-responsive buses could give people a public transport service tailored to their needs. The opportunity to improve mobility for millions of Londoners is here but it will require proper planning, transparency and accountability, as well as cooperation with government, boroughs and development companies.
“TfL have been caught napping on the technology front and it’s time to wake up. Uber, then oBike are two examples of a poorly prepared regulator which seems to be making it up as they go along.
“Go back to 2014 – in its ‘Future Proof’ report, this committee warned that ‘TfL needs to be prepared for the inevitable consequences of a transport environment in which technology is evolving faster than the legislation that is needed to govern its use.’ It’s clear that warning was ignored – let’s hope this warning won’t be.”
Michael Hurwitz, Director of Transport Innovation at TfL, said, “This report outlines the challenges that all cities across the UK, including London, face when considering how transport will operate in the future. We work with a wide range of tech companies around the world to support and learn from innovation that could improve transport across London. This work builds on what we have already delivered in areas such as contactless ticketing, free open data and state of the art signalling to deliver some of the highest frequency metro services in the world.
“As part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, many of these elements are already being considered and TfL is involved in a number of pilots and initiatives to help ensure that any introduction of new technology such as autonomous vehicles and drones is safe, environmentally-friendly and consistent with our focus on walking, cycling and green public transport.”