Automated Vehicles: Automatically Low Carbon?

Automation and smart connectivity in road vehicles is happening apace. In this report we look at how might these elements be combined and integrated into the mobility system to have the most positive impact on energy efficiency and carbon reduction.

Google, Apple, Tesla; all household names which are becoming inextricably linked to the vision of the so-called driverless, autonomous or automated vehicles, holding out the prospect of a revolution in the ways we’ll move around in future.

But what are the potential benefits and pitfalls from this revolution in mobility technology?

With LowCVP, we commissioned the Institute for Transport Studies, Leeds to investigate the potential impacts of these exciting new technologies and to provide some pointers as to how policy makers may need to respond to make sure they can deliver the greatest benefits in terms of carbon emissions and air quality.

The UK government is keen to maintain its edge in automotive research and technology and, driven by the perceived benefits of connected and automated vehicles (CAVs), aims to be a leader in this area.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has identified four key benefits from the adoption of CAVs:

  • Creating more free time
  • Improving safety
  • Reducing emissions and easing congestion
  • Increasing access to vehicles for everyone

KPMG estimates the benefits of a high level of automation to be: 25,000 new manufacturing jobs and 320,000 additional new jobs, a reduction of 25,000 accidents saving 2,500 lives and an additional £51bn of economic and social benefit per year by 2030.

DfT has clarified that UK legislation already allows the testing of automated vehicles on UK roads and has developed a code of practice for such on-road testing in 2015.

A separate division spanning the DfT and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) – the Centre for Connected and Automated Vehicles (CCAV) - has been created to oversee development in this area. The government has announced a £200m fund to develop CAV technology.

Currently, pilot tests are ongoing in Bristol, Coventry, Greenwich and Milton Keynes through this fund. Independently, the University of Oxford has developed and demonstrated its own highly automated car.


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