Connected and autonomous vehicles in the UK - a bright but demanding future awaits

April 4 saw the UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) Connected 2019 conference take place in London – the pace of development of connected and autonomous vehicles in the two years since the last event two years ago has been astonishing, as Simon Duval Smith reports.

Mike Hawes spoke of the extraordinary progress made in the connected and autonomous and vehicle (CAV) sector in the UK since the last SMMT forum on the subject.

Mike Hawes

Mike Hawes

He talked of how, in the two years since the last such conference, the pace of development of connected and autonomous vehicles has been astonishing. Hawes pointed out that more than £500 million ($651 million) has been invested in CAV research and development in the UK, that there are more than 80 collaborative projects underway, making use of four major test-beds and three more test sites where motorway, rural and urban conditions can be simulated.

Infrastructure was vital to CAV development he said: “It’s not just about the vehicles themselves – these cutting-edge projects rely on solid communications infrastructure, so the fact that more than £740 million has been committed to full fibre broadband rollout across the UK and 5G testing at key locations is critical.” He went on to talk about the UK’s relationship with Europe and how inter-connectivity with the EU must be kept active.

Insurance is a major stumbling block for CAVs and Hawes said that the UK leading in this area; it is the first region to pass a law on comprehensive and all-encompassing insurance cover for self-driving vehicles. He spoke of how CAVs could cut some 47,000 accidents per year in the UK alone and could add one full day’s productive work time per week, that is presently wasted in traffic delays.

Toyota’s connected offering

The first speaker in the ‘Industry and Government Keynote’ session was the CEO of Toyota Connected Europe, Agustín Martin. He talked of how Toyota, like all OEMs, needs to transform from being a vehicle maker to a mobility company, offering multi-modal personal transport solutions. Martin went on to talk of a market opportunity worth some €502 billion ($563 billion); today this is made up of 94% vehicle sales - mainly i.c.-powered vehicles - and 6% EVs and CAVs. By 20250 he said that this figure could move to 37% connected and new mobility vehicles, worth some €643 billion.

Martin said that the disruption of the market will see a sea change in customer expectations; from the traditional vehicle ownership model to a sharing economy, with a lower emotional attachment to having a personal car.

When asked why Europe was a major focus for Toyota’s CAV activities, Martin said that Europe has the oldest cities in the world and has the most advanced CAv infrastructure plus the best regulatory environment.

Aston Martin Lagonda - luxury and CAV technology

Dr Andy Palmer, President and Group CEO of Aston Martin Lagonda, the British sports and luxury brand took the stage to talk about establishing the Lagonda brand as a CAV pioneer. Given Aston Martin and Lagonda’s traditions of high performance engines, it was revealing to hear Palmer talk of his perception that governments around the world are legislating petrol- and diesel-engined vehicles ‘out of existence’ and that the ‘broken business model’ of the major OEMs turning out excess production and ‘stacking them high and selling them cheap’ is not sustainable. He said that this policy will lead to further consolidation in the global auto industry and that one way to ‘stem this tide’ is to create greater brand identity and exclusivity. Palmer said that combining luxury with new technology is the aim of the Lagonda brand and that it will be the first luxury marque with a ‘really convincing’ EV offer, to be launched in 2020.

When asked about autonomous vehicles, he said: “We will race to Level 2 but then move to Level 4, with a Lagonda vehicle.”

On driver distraction and speed limits and limiters, he said that the wholesale adoption by OEMs of speed limiters will actually increase driver distraction and cause more, not fewer, accidents. When asked about the tension between personal luxury vehicles and ride-sharing, and other shared ownership models, Palmer said, “Rideshare will become a commodity; luxury vehicles must maintain their exclusivity and their emotional appeal.”

The UK government view and Brexit

The Rt. Hon Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Stratgey, outlined the UK government’s views and objectives. He said that government cannot provide CAV and AI infrastructure on its own, it must raise private investment from the industry. He spoke of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) in Warwick, in the UK’s Midlands. CCAV is part of the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Skidmore detailed how, since 2014, the UK government has invested significantly into the research and development of CAVs; some £120 million in CAV projects, with a further £68 million coming from industry contributions.

He emphasised that this funding is truly collaborative, supporting over 70 projects with more than 200 partners from organisations including OEMs - he mentioned Jaguar Land Rover and how important their contributions are, universities, insurance companies, high tech entrepreneurial businesses, and research organisations.

Skidmore sought to reassure the conference that the UK would not leave the EU without a deal but would not be drawn to comment on specifics.

Smart Mobility discussions

After a break, the Smart Mobility panel debated how industry and social infrastructure could come together to enable the personal and public transport solutions of the future. Michael Hurwitz, Director of Transport Innovation at Transport for London (TfL), summed up the approach of many during the ‘Smart Mobility’ discussion: “The solutions we’re looking at have to work for the 15% of people who don’t use apps or those who can’t get around as easily,” and 
Tony Douglas, Head of Brand, Marketing and Communications, BMW Group Mobility Services said that the carmaker was investing heavily and that its ‘i-Series’ electric vehicles were a statement of intent of how the OEM was looking actively at CAV solutions.

John Lippe, Director, City Engagement at Ford Mobility in Europe talked of the carmaker’s acquisition of Autonomic and TransLoc, in deals that will help its new mobility business take shape. He explained how Ford will be working with Silicon Valley-based Autonomic, a transportation architecture and technology provider, on its forthcoming Transportation Mobility Cloud open platform for cities and transportation partners.

Lippe outlined how TransLoc is a company that builds technology to support “microtransit” services, including, real-time tracking, demand modelling and response analysis, as well as consumer-facing mobile apps and services. All of those components are important pieces of the puzzle for something like the Transportation Mobility Cloud, which Lippe said Ford hopes will be adopted by partners including other automakers, public transit providers, and service operators including ride-hailing and ride sharing companies. “Between the acquisition of Autonomic and TransLoc, plus the organisational changes, this is an acceleration of the mobility strategy here at Ford,” he said.

Answering a question on what the industry will invest in next, Klaus Klawitter, Managing Director of Studio 107, InMotion Ventures, replied: “We have have been waiting for the whole multimodal transport space to take off, we have assumed that there will be a wholesale amalgamation but we can see that companies such as Google Maps do not offer end-to-end transport solutions, such as online maps combined with booking systems. We need to invest in bringing all mobility onto one platform, including ticketing etcetera, for multimodal mobility.”

14-15 May 2019
Graz, Austria

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11-12 June 2019
Coventry, United Kingdom

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Big data - big challenges

Sajid Yacoob, Managing Partner – CASE Automotive, Global Head of EV Consultancy, TCS chaired the Data and the Digital Ecosystem panel, where Jonathan Bamford from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office called for “privacy by default”, he said: “GDPR is intended to revolutionise data management and if you want joined-up vehicles, you need joined-up systems.” Bamford said that personal data is the new oil, and is “an immensely valuable commodity.”

David Holecek, Director of Digital Experience at Volvo Car Group spoke of how Volvo wants to share more data (it has already opened all its vehicle safety data to other OEMs and suppliers) but that, “other OEMs may be reluctant to do this. I believe that the OEMs who share data will have a sales advantage,” he said.

Andy Palmer - Aston Martin Lagonda

Andy Palmer - Aston Martin Lagonda

Steven Armstrong

Agustin Martin - Toyota Connected Europe

Privacy by design

Holecek went on to say that, “The car should not be the repository of data, data should stay in your ‘personal suitcase’ and move from say, a rental vehicle, to your own vehicle without leaving any security risk footprint behind.”

Peter Leavy, Group Head of Connected Car Propositions at Vodafone Business talked of how Turkey does not allow any data to leave the country - servers for Turkey-domain traffic must be in the country and no data roaming is permitted; he said that other countries are also becoming more data-security ‘savvy’, citing how Germany requires personal video sign-ins to wifi. Helocek said that, “Different regulations in different countries could be a data nightmare and of course, sharing cars should not mean sharing data.” Speaking about the introduction of 5G networks, Leavy said, “5G will really ‘score’, as we will build it into cities also on highways networks - all players will have to recognise that it (5G) must be built into where it is needed most, for the CAVs of the future.” Professor Nick Reed, Head of Mobility R&D at supplier Bosch, speaking on the issue of the introduction of 5G said, “All players need to cater for all areas and vehicles, including areas and users that do not, and perhaps will never have, 5G or other advanced communication interfaces in their vehicle sort on their devices.”

Connecting the supply chain

A panel discussion session followed lunch, this was chaired by Sajid Yacoob of Tata Consultancy Services. John Comer, Head Of Product management at Volvo Trucks was asked about the possibilities for connected trucks; he said that, “Scorecarding drivers using an app is very successful bet there are many more great opportunities for the use of greater connectivity. These include looking at driver usage of the ADAS system on a truck - how many ‘hard stops’ are made, plus all truckmakers must open up our data more, our user interface apps are very transferable and could help to set some industry standards.”

John Armes, Senior Connectivity Specialist at Mercede-Benz Trucks UK agreed and said that Mercedes-Benz Trucks are, “opening up our data sharing, we are very open-minded on this, it is something that must go ahead throughout the truck and logistics industries.”

Armes answered a question from the floor, about what is possible for connectivity in trucks that has come to the fore recently, and what is possible in the future? He said, “This is a big question but we have had a lot of connectivity for more than 10 years and this can be expressed as three elements. Fleetboard, which is telematics for monitoring driver behaviour; Telediagnosis, which over-the-air monitoring of truck performance and maintenance requirements, and our Truck App portal, which has the capacity to incorporate many new features, from truck and driver communication to perhaps load and journey planning that can interface with orders etc.”

Technology keynote presentations

Stan Boland, CEO, FiveAI delivered a technology keynote about the hurdles the UK has to overcome to compete globally on CAVs. He spoke, as other speakers had, of the need for vigorous efforts to marry government and private sector finance and spoke of the tremendous advances in artificial intelligence and how so many of them are so well suited to CAVs.

Adam Grzywaczewski, Senior Deep Learning Solution Architect, NVIDIA made a technical presentation of his research in deep learning and machine learning, explaining the architecture needed to power tomorrow’s CAVs and how ‘the sky's the limit’ for connectivity, given the extraordinary computing and intelligence power of the software and hardware being developed by companies such as NVIDIA.

The view from around the world

The last panel saw Dan Langford of the Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility talk of how the state was leading the way in legislating to accommodate the many CAV and AI programmes being developed and tested there. He talked of the cultural differences between Nevada and the rest of the world, citing how Las Vegas is a city of constant change and thus is the ideal place to try out new systems and vehicles.

This was contrasted by the view of Graham Smethurst for the OEM association in Germany, the VDA. He said that, “There is a degree of conservatism about the subject of connectivity, in Germany but this might be overcome to a certain extent by more data and programme sharing amongst OEMs and suppliers.”

Richard Bruce, Director of Energy, Technology and Innovation at the UK Department of Transport spoke enthusiastically about the UK’s readiness for change: “The global and European ‘movement’ in this area does ‘emsh’ with the UK but there is a delicate balance to be struck as progress can go too fast, with the rapid pace of development in AV and AI.”

Asked if the UK could slip behind in the CAV/AV/AI race, Smethurst said that AV must be viewed as an enabler, not a goal. “AV must contribute to a generally better mobility offering in a multimodal landscape.”

This sentiment almost summed up the sentiments expressed by all the participants at the conference, as Mike Hawes said in his closing remarks. “We must harness the undoubted power of AV, AI and indeed all new technologies, in a holistic manner, for the good of all those in our industry, and for the benefit of all those who need better personal and public mobility solutions,” he concluded. 

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