Transport for London ‘napping on the technology front’

The streets of London are not prepared for the advent of new technologies like drones, droids and driverless cars, a new report has warned.

A report published today by the London Assembly’s transport committee, entitled Future Transport calls for more effective planning and monitoring by Transport for London (TfL) as these new technologies start to roll out across the capital.

In particular, the report highlights the ‘recent failures’ to deal with the rapid growth of the private car hire operator, Uber, and the dockless cycle hire scheme, oBike.

It also highlights the development of driverless vehicles, which it states is ‘potentially the biggest change in the way we use cars’.

And although the report notes that while there is ‘much hype’ about driverless cars, it adds they will not be on London roads until at least 2030 and ‘could add to congestion’.

The report also warns that TfL needs to be ‘proactively’ shaping the market around dockless bikes and demand-response buses.

It also calls for a control system to be put in place to monitor drones and droids.

‘The controlled use of drones should be explored if risks can be minimized,’ the report adds.

‘At present it is clear that planning for a future of increased drone use is not advanced.’

The document also notes the growing number of transport apps, which are powered by data from TfL.

‘We welcome TfL’s openness and commitment to supporting app developers,’ the report notes.

‘There should be reciprocity however, so TfL can gather additional data from the apps they underpin, to inform further enhancements to the transport network.’

The chair of the committee, Keith Prince, claimed TfL ‘have been caught napping on the technology front’ and that ‘it’s time to wake up’.

‘Uber, then oBike are two examples of a poorly prepared regulator which seems to be making it up as they go along,’ said Mr Prince.

‘Go back to 2014 – in its Future Proof report, this committee warned that “TfL needs to be prepared for the inevitable consequences of a transport environment in which technology is evolving faster than the legislation that is needed to govern its use”.

‘It’s clear that warning was ignored – let’s hope this warning won’t be,’ added Mr Prince.

New APPG group launched

The report has been published as MPs launch a new cross-party group to increase awareness of the benefits and opportunities of electric and automated vehicles.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Electric and Autonomous Vehicles will be chaired by the former Welsh secretary and Conservative MP, Cheryl Gillan.

‘It is imperative that parliamentarians are aware of the rapid pace of change in the electric and automated vehicle sectors and that post-Brexit the UK is well positioned to benefit from these new technologies,’ said Ms Gillan.

‘Clearly at hand are new opportunities to expand our manufacturing base, create new exportable expertise, decarbonise our economy, improve safety, and increase productivity.

‘We can’t let this major industrial shift pass us by while everybody is focused on EU negotiations,’ she added.

‘We will aim to keep MPs and Lords informed and help drive the agenda forwards.’

Photo by David Holt London

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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