As co-sponsors of the event, the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) was heavily involved in promoting that message. As well as manning two exhibition stands, the TSC supplied a keynote speech by CEO Steve Yianni, a presentation on the LUTZ Pathfinder driverless vehicles programme and took part in the event’s final forum on “Intelligent Mobility and Low Carbon Vehicles”.
Away from the main site, the TSC also hosted an evening reception at its Imovation Centre in Milton Keynes. The Catapult also sponsored the prize for Low Carbon Innovation by an SME at the subsequent Low Carbon Champions awards night – handing over the award to Celtic Renewables, an innovative Edinburgh-based firm who produce biofuel from industrial waste products, including leftovers from Scotland’s £4 billion malt whisky industry.
Speaking at the start of the event’s second day, Mr Yianni gave a quick introduction to the TSC’s work and expressed his confidence in the UK’s ability to play a leading role in the Intelligent Mobility field.
He also pointed out, however, that much work still had to be done in several key areas.
“We still have industry silos working independently, so our role to bring them together and help them think about transport as a whole,” Mr Yianni told the audience, before identifying cost reduction, investment in technology and people, and a further opening up of data and connectivity as further essentials on the Intelligent Mobility and Low Carbon Vehicle to-do lists.
Neil Fulton, programme manager for the LUTZ Pathfinder driverless pods programme, then provided a detailed update on his project, which will trial three fully-electric autonomous vehicles on the pavements of Milton Keynes early next year.
While emphasising the challenges that still lie ahead, Mr Fulton emphasised the environmental benefits that autonomous on-demand vehicles could provide, once the key questions relating to technology, safety and legislation have been answered.
Similarly positive sentiments were expressed later in the day, when a panel of speakers representing academia, industry and government came together to discuss the interplay between Intelligent Mobility and Low Carbon Vehicles.
Pointing out that over 90 percent of UK transport – of both people and goods – is currently conducted by road, University of Cambridge Professor in Transitional Energy Strategies John Miles said that the automotive sector stood to benefit the most from Intelligent Mobility.
“When you look at the current congestion levels on our roads, it seems that there is no way of increasing capacity on the existing road network. But with an Intelligent Mobility approach, it would be possible to increase capacity, maybe by as much as 25-30 percent, so it’s a massive prize if we can just capture some of that potential.”
Leading the way – in traffic levels
Turning what seems like a negative into a potential positive, Professor Miles suggested that the UK’s frequently jammed road network could even be seen as a “world class congestion laboratory”, something that fellow panellist Graham Hoare, Director of Global Engineering Operations at Ford, followed up on with a slide showing that the UK does indeed “lead the way” when it comes to European congestion levels.
“Intelligent Mobility presents a major discontinuity to our business, a revolution even, but it’s also a great opportunity if we can embrace it,” Mr Hoare said.
“The UK clearly has the potential to secure a significant slice of the global mobility business, but [the automotive industry] cannot do it alone. We need the four main sectors of automotive, digital, transport authorities and cities to intersect to create mobility for the future – and government engagement is particularly vital if we want to increase this cross-sector coordination and create a financial and policy climate that supports innovation.”
Apparently happy to rise to this challenge, the Department for Transport’s Director of Energy, Technology & International Michael Hurwitz insisted that the UK was ready to champion Intelligent Mobility, with autonomous vehicles one of the main focus areas.
“We have been in a transition stage during the past few years, as people start to get comfortable with autonomous functions such as lane assistance and adaptive cruise control, but now we’re moving towards the start [next year] of the first on-road tests of truly autonomous vehicles,” Hurwitz said.
“We want to ensure that the UK is a global test bed for this technology, and with the varied road conditions and designs, along with the UK’s varied congestion levels and weather, we can honestly say that if the technology works in the UK, it can work anywhere. So to industry I would say, keep devising the technologies and we will do what we can in government to make it happen.”