The Government must broaden its work on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles across all sectors and not focus so heavily on road vehicles, say a House of Lords Science and Technology Committee.
Early benefits are likely to come in sectors such as marine and agriculture therefore the Government must not allow media attention around driverless cars to cause it to lose sight of the many potential benefits that CAV can provide in areas outside the roads sector.
The report has found that there is no clear central coordination of strategy or information sharing across the different sectors that could benefit from Connected and Autonomous Vehicle technology, or robotics more broadly, such as marine, road and agriculture.
They also want future road schemes future proofed to meet upcoming connected vehicles to prevent future lengthy upgrading roadworks to install technology which could be done as new roads are laid.
The main social, behavioural and ethical questions relating to autonomous cars remain largely unanswered; such as whether they will reduce accidents caused by human error.
The Committee heard evidence that autonomous vehicles have the potential to lower the number of road fatalities, but the eradication of human error will only be realised with full automation which could take decades.
Furthermore, autonomous cars could have negative implications for drivers’ competence, making drivers complacent and overly reliant on technology. This is of particular concern in emergency situations, where a driver 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.
Chairman of the Committee, the Earl of Selborne said, “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 that CAV offer in different sectors.
“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. We welcome the focus on skills in the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper and urge the Government to find innovative solutions to this problem.
“Long-term developments in CAV have the potential to bring about transformational change to society but these changes will only take place if society is willing to both pay for and to adapt its behaviour to fit the technology.”