London urged to use data to prepare for drones, droids and driverless cars

A new London Assembly Transport Committee report, ‘Future Transport: How is London responding to technological innovation?’ , has been published, revealing some interesting findings:

  • 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

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, Chairman of the London Assembly Transport 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.”

The full report can be read here.

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