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TfL told to wake up and prepare for autonomous vehicles

London Bridge

Transport for London (TfL) has been told it must stop napping, “wake up” and start preparing for the arrival of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

In its report ‘Future Transport: How is London responding to technological innovation? the London Assembly transport committee urged TfL to better prepare for CAVs, which are generally predicted to hit the roads in the 2030s.

Committee chair Keith Prince said TfL had been “caught napping on the technology front”, but TfL argued many of the report’s recommendations are already being considered as part of the mayor’s transport strategy.

Disruptive transport technologies including ride-hailing apps like Uber and dockless bike schemes caused controversy last year. In October a petition gathered more than 500,000 signatures when TfL threatened to revoke Uber’s licence, while dockless bikes were confiscated for safety reasons.

“The opportunity to improve mobility for millions of Londoners is here but it will require proper planning, transparency and accountability, as well as cooperation with government, boroughs and development companies,” said committee chair Keith Prince.

“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.”

The committee added that professional engineering bodies should work more closely with TfL’s Transport Innovation group, which identifies new technologies which could affect TfL’s business.

The report also warned there is no control system in place for drones, which are increasingly being used for freight deliveries, and advised TfL to ensure any apps powered by its data shared new data with TfL.

TfL is already facing increased pressure on its budget as it approaches an almost £1bn deficit next year, prompting rail union RMT to call on the government to reinstate its £700M per year grant.

Michael Hurwitz, Director of Transport Innovation at TfL, said: “This report outlines the challenges that all cities across the UK, including London, face when considering how transport will operate in the future. We work with a wide range of tech companies around the world to support and learn from innovation that could improve transport across London. This work builds on what we have already delivered in areas such as contactless ticketing, free open data and state of the art signalling to deliver some of the highest frequency metro services in the world.

“As part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, many of these elements are already being considered and TfL is involved in a number of pilots and initiatives to help ensure that any introduction of new technology such as autonomous vehicles and drones is safe, environmentally-friendly and consistent with our focus on walking, cycling and green public transport.”


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