Autonomous vehicles are almost certainly going to make a big splash, but the transition to an autonomous future is an uncertain one. A report published earlier this year by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) explores how how our transport systems might evolve.
It suggests that transport will face three main shifts in the coming years:
- from conventional vehicles to connected vehicles (vehicles that can communicate with other vehicles and with the infrastructure);
- from connected vehicles to connected and automated vehicles (vehicles that, under specific circumstances, can drive without, or little human interaction) and
- from connected and automated vehicles to Coordinated Automated Road Transport (C-ART).
The report analyzes the impacts of autonomous vehicles via a number of scenarios to try and determine the best way for the technology to be successfully exploited.
The authors discuss key issues involving infrastructure, human factors, data, ethics as well as policy and legislation, all of which are likely to be crucial in the successful roll-out of autonomous vehicles.
For instance, the infrastructure will need to be built to allow autonomous vehicles to successfully communicate with one another, and indeed with any management system created. Such a network would need a strong data governance framework behind it to both facilitate the kind of data sharing that will be crucial whilst also ensuring privacy and data security is robust.
The report acts as the first main policy input by the European Union, and highlights some gaps in thinking that need to be researched more thoroughly.
The European Commission hope to roll-out partially automated and connected vehicles by 2020, and the paper marks a crucial step in reaching that goal. They are already committed to deployment of a system known as Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) in Europe by 2019. This is an infrastructure that will allow vehicles to communicate both with each other and with the transport infrastructure.