The digitization of transport operations and the introduction of autonomous vehicles constitute a dramatic shift in paradigm and provide challenges but also opportunities for a variety of policy objectives and transport operational issues.
As technology and innovation advance, and systems are implemented and tested on a wider scale, one thing becomes clear: the transition phase needs to be proactively managed, including guaranteeing equal chances for all and preserving the key role and place of private transport operators, and the data they possess, in the future of an increasingly autonomous mobility value chain.
Cities are increasingly promoting the real-life testing and operation of autonomous vehicles.
Vehicle manufactures are investing heavily in vehicle automation. Indeed, self-driving vehicles already operate in controlled environments, such as dedicated lanes in cities and ports, and first pilot projects with self-driving commercial vehicles – trucks, buses and taxis – are already underway in advanced economies.
Other mobility sub-sectors such as metros, have already accumulated a considerable amount of experience and know-how in running automated operations.
According to scientific studies and information from vehicle manufactures, the number of driverless commercial vehicles will increase considerably over the next 10-20 years, becoming a permanent feature on our roads
However, how will it look in reality? What does autonomous driving mean for transport operators? Will autonomous vehicles be a solution for everyone, everywhere? When will these vehicles become a reality?
At the IRU World Congress that took place in Oman last November, national transport associations, research, employment, government representatives and the UN discussed the topic in detail.
There was divergence, but also much agreement on the gap between what the manufacturers want to sell and what the industry needs and the fact that the widespread adoption of technology will always be driven by innovation and cost.
The global topic of innovation and digitization is high on the agenda of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Inland Transport Committee – the UNECE “General Assembly” of sorts – to be held in Geneva, Switzerland on 19 to 22 February of this year.
During this, UNECE “General Assembly” will focus on the enhanced cooperation in the area of automation in transport to ensure that benefits are shared as widely as possible and to avoid the emergence of fragmented, non inter-operable systems.
It will also guide governments on how to facilitate trade and transport through the implementation of tried and test UN Conventions and their practical, digital application.
IRU will support the UNECE in their coordination efforts as the road transport industry embraces innovation and is in favour of a transition which allows for the safe, secure and sustainable operation of autonomous vehicles, as per guidance by UNECE.
Picture: Yuwei Li, Director UNECE Sustainable Transport Division
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