Published on in TransportInnovation

The future of transport is extremely hard to predict – as I’ve said in a previous piece.

There’s a myriad of moving parts, from the way that passengers live and work to transport technology itself.

But with all that said, as 2017 draws to an end and we see 2018 on the horizon, now is the perfect time to look ahead and consider what the next 12 months will hold.

Will next Christmas see Santa on his autonomous red sleigh?

The autonomous Autumn Statement

In November, Philip Hammond delivered his Budget for the year ahead, and one of the most interesting announcements was his commitment to driverless cars.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer pledged to have “genuine driverless vehicles” on the roads by 2021.

As a result, in 2018, we will see the development of driverless cars in the UK accelerate significantly.

There are a number of technology and car manufacturers already working on these type of vehicles around the world.

But crucially, we are also likely to see collaborative projects between the public and private sector confirmed in the twelve months ahead.

This is because there are significant questions that must be addressed if we are to ensure that driverless cars work in the best way for the UK.

We must determine how autonomous vehicles will fit into our infrastructure, who will be responsible for their insurance – and how we can ensure their safety.

All of these questions will require transport stakeholders to come together and make decisions in the year ahead.

The problem of public perception

As the Chancellor acknowledged, the road ahead is likely to be “challenging.”

Public perception is a key issue.

Our research has shown that 41% of people would be uncomfortable being picked up by a driverless car, and less than two in ten would be happy to put their child in one alone.

So if we’re serious about making driverless cars work, it will be important to educate the UK public on the advantages of the technology.

These could include everything from reducing accidents on the roads to cutting down the amount of space required for parking and improving productivity.

So while we have many decisions to make on how driverless cars will work, we must ensure that educating the public does not fall by the wayside.

Innovation for inclusion

The transport sector must also consider the power of driverless cars as a tool for inclusion.

Think of the impact that autonomous vehicles could have on all of the people in the UK who, for many reasons, are unable to drive and have limited mobility.

It could open up whole new possibilities for our social – and working – lives.

From the outset, we must consider ways of ensuring that driverless cars help as many people as possible, and can contribute to a more mobile and more inclusive society.

The future’s bright – the future’s driverless

So, in the year ahead look out for many tricky challenges, and many exciting developments, from the world of driverless cars.

To make the most of this technology, the whole transport sector must come together and determine how autonomous vehicles can best work in the UK’s favour.

But if we get it right, in a few years’ time we may very well see Santa driven on a sleigh with no reins – safe, happy and productive.

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