Reaping the benefits of autonomous vehicles15 Mar 2017

Autonomy not limited to driverless cars

The government is being urged to look beyond cars to reap the most benefits from the future introduction of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV).

A report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee said “early benefits are likely to appear in other sectors, such as marine and agriculture”.

It made three other key points:

  • The development of CAV across different sectors needs coordination and the Government, working with key stakeholders, must get a grip on this chiefly by establishing a Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Leadership Council as soon as possible to play a key role in developing a strategy for CAV;
  • There is a clear need for further Government-commissioned social and economic research to weigh the potential human and financial implications of CAV;
  • This 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.


Reacting to the report Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, told Radio 4’s Today Programme (at 07.35):

“The concern I flagged to the House of Lords Committee was really about the transition; how we get from here to there. One of the ideas that is around is a level where the vehicle is capable of being autonomous but when circumstances get too complicated it hands control back to the driver and I just can’t see how that is going to work.”

He went on:

“The other thing I flagged with the committee is that we do really need to get our heads round how we are going to certify that these vehicles are road worthy. This will be the first time that we are going to need a certification process that deals with artificial intelligence, and that is going to be quite a challenge.”

Mr Gooding had already given oral evidence to the committee during the course of its investigation:

“One of the key considerations which I think we are all struggling with when trying to think about the implications of this technology is that currently we do not know what it will cost, so when we think about how individuals might engage with autonomous vehicles and what it might do to the patterns of trips they make, one of the key considerations is whether they will be able to afford them, and we are not yet terribly clear on that.

“We have heard… about “the rubber hitting the road”; we are still going to need the road to be there, and one of the key things I feel obliged to say is that a lot of the roads in this country are falling apart. We have a big maintenance backlog and one of the things we must not lose sight of is that all these many advantages of enhanced mobility will not materialise if we have not maintained the roads for the vehicles to run on.”



Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

[email protected] | 020 7747 3445 | 07711 776448 | 020 7389 0601 (ISDN)

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at: