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Taking a lead on mobility is one of four ‘grand challenges’ UK faces

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The Government believes the UK can build on its long history of transport innovation by taking a global lead in shaping the future of mobility.

It is one of four ‘grand challenges’ revealed in its industrial strategy – Building a Britain Fit for the Future – published last month.

The four grand challenges, which also include artificial intelligence and big data, clean growth, and meeting the needs of an aging society, have been identified by the Government as areas of strategic importance, where the UK has the opportunity to play a leading role in the so-called fourth industrial revolution.

It is inviting business and academia to work together to innovate and develop new technologies and industries and, in terms of mobility, is promising to publish a ‘Future of Urban Mobility’ strategy within the next 12 months.

The white paper says: “We are on the cusp of a profound change in how we move people, goods and services around our towns, cities and countryside. 

“New market entrants and new business models, such as ride-hailing services, ride sharing and ‘mobility as a service’, are challenging our assumptions about how we travel.”

The Government believes these technologies have the power to transform public transport. “The UK’s road and rail network could dramatically reduce carbon emissions and other pollutants, congestion could be reduced through higher-density use of road space enabled by automated vehicles, and mobility could be available when we want it, where we want it and how we want it,” it said.   

In addition to the mobility strategy, the Government says the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) will launch a new innovation prize to determine how future roadbuilding should adapt to supporting self-driving cars, with the West Midlands, a UK centre of expertise on connected and autonomous vehicles, being a key testing location for the best entries. 

It is also investing £5 million from the 5G Testbeds and Trials programme for an initial trial, starting in 2018, of 5G applications and deployment on roads, including helping to test how the UK can maximise future productivity benefits from self-driving cars. 

The Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) welcomed the inclusion of mobility as a key challenge. Its CEO Paul Campion said: “The way we travel and move goods will change dramatically in the next decade. The industrial strategy is an opportunity to make sure the UK is at the forefront of this revolution, rather than being mere passengers – with the economic rewards going overseas.”

Part of a network of not-for-profit technology and innovation centres, TSC specialises in intelligent mobility. It says it is already seeing a number of high profile projects testing new connected and autonomous vehicle technology in the UK, including the UK Autodrive project which began trialling multiple vehicles on open public roads in Coventry, last month.

“We are also seeing a large number of new businesses being created around the use of data to improve transport infrastructure, planning and customer experience,” said Campion. 

TSC’s own, newly created Intelligent Mobility Accelerator programme has found no shortage of applicants looking to develop new transport technologies in the UK.

“With this background we are confident that increased investment in future mobility can lead to high quality jobs, innovation and growth in the UK economy – even as we compete on the world stage with the likes of China and the US,” concluded Campion.  


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