Meet ICT4CART: the interview series continues with #8

  • Meet Urban Foresight: the company

Urban Foresight is a UK-based smart cities consultancy dedicated to improving lives, promoting sustainability and creating new economic opportunities.

We work across various different sectors to help apply emerging technologies, innovative business models and ambitious policies to drive positive change.

  • Urban Foresight in ICT4CART: what is your role?

Urban Foresight’s research and analysis is supporting the consortium partners in contextualising the commercial potential of their developments in this growing technology space.

We are supporting the wider programme in developing viable and successful business models by exploring two key questions:

  1. How will the CAV ICT infrastructure market develop and what are the needs of the various players in that market?
  2. In what ways can this infrastructure and its associated services be paid for?

Our research and analysis activities are designed to wrap around the bulk of the technological development activities, providing other consortium members with guidance on the business environment that frames their research.

  • What services do highly automated and connected vehicles need from their supporting infrastructure? Are there any obstacles and if so, how can they be tackled?

Last year, we completed our analysis of this area for the ICT4CART project and we concluded that there are six categories of services:

  1. Automated driving: connectivity is used to directly supporting the operation of automated vehicles.
  2. Informed journeys: the most mature of the markets, where drivers use integrated or other devices to connect with a live information source on the journey ahead. For example, sat navs or mobile navigation applications.
  3. Intelligent management: connectivity provides road network and fleet operators with detailed, live information on vehicles, enabling them to make data-driven decisions on the operation of their network or fleet.
  4. Coordination of vehicles: where the choice of route and driving behaviours of vehicles is instructed by the network or fleet operators for the best overall outcomes for the users of the network or space.
  5. Connected travellers: connectivity that enables travellers to be productive or to be entertained whilst travelling in an automated vehicle.
  6. Underpinning communication services such as secure encoding or data analysis, that enable a safe and effective communication network with no interoperability or legacy equipment issues.

You can read more about these needs in the summary report that we recently published.

There are several recognised technological obstacles to the full roll-out of these services, such as those related to standardisation and cyber security.

The European Commission has of course been proactive in addressing many of these barriers, not least by establishing communications standards and sponsoring collaborative technology research projects such as ICT4CART and C-ROADS.

There are also, however, significant commercial obstacles to be overcome. Questions exist around how the market will develop and how the required multi-stakeholder investment can be enabled. This is why the market research and business model elements have been included within the ICT4CART project, which we are pleased to be leading on.

  • According to your analysis, how will the market structure develop?

Our analysis recognises, firstly, that many of the services we are talking about already exist in some form and are established part of the driving task, such as those that provide journey routing guidance, real-time updates on traffic conditions and advanced driver assistance systems.

Some services will be an evolution of those, developing in performance and complexity as connectivity improves and the role of automation increases. The route for introduction of other services, such as those which support fully automated corridors is far less clear and the structure of the market is likely to be more complex, with public-private investment partnerships likely to play a vital role.

The questions we are now focussing on through our involvement in other ICT4CART work packages aim to help address some of the uncertainties associated with these emerging markets.

These include questions such as: how much all of this could cost; what value do the different market players gain from the different services; and what are the business models that may be viable for delivering this value?

5) From Urban Foresight’s point of view, what potential impact could COVID-19 have on further research and development and/or future actions of connected and autonomous vehicle technology?

The COVID-19 pandemic is, of course, having a dramatic effect on how we organise our societies across the world.

In terms of mobility, it is raising questions around not only around how we travel but is making us ask in many cases why we travel – the question of if we have to get in a vehicle to travel when we might not need to is now prominent in everyone’s minds.

Conversely, the importance of logistics fleet operators – particularly last-mile delivery services – has been highlighted by our reliance on both large e-commerce and small business deliveries for an increasing range of products. Operators and providers will now be starting to explore how they can advance in this lucrative sector.

These questions will have an influence on how important we consider connectivity for road transport. So far, there has been a risk that connectivity and autonomous driving innovations will be isolated to luxury sectors, limiting their benefits in road transport safety, comfort and efficiency only to those that can afford it.

This is where consortium projects like ICT4CART, which takes atechnology-agnostic, holistic approach, is designed to deliver benefits.

Connectivity – the sharing of data within and between vehicles and infrastructure - has the potential to democratise transport; ensuring that the road network and its surrounding environment is greener, cleaner and safer for all people (not just those in the vehicles) and designed for integrated multi-modal transport options, including micro-mobility and mass transit.

By making sure that our market analysis captures the full scope of the value that connected road transport can bring – not just those benefits that are commercially viable for a single technology provider – the infrastructure solutions we develop will be able to facilitate the delivery of all benefits as a default.