By Stephanie Hagen, Head of Content, Autonomy 

The  London City Summit was held on October 12th and featured a conference program about the future of autonomous vehicles along with networking sessions for around 150 participants. This London City Summit is part of a larger Autonomy City Summit Series in which one-day conference and networking events are organized in major mobility capitals, each centered around a different mobility-related theme. To learn more about how your company can become a City Summit Partner,  please reach out to carolina@autonomy.paris. If you want to attend future city summits, then sign up for our newsletter where we announce all of our events.

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Welcome to Part II of Autonomy’s London City Summit Rundown. Part I covered the morning sessions of the one-day conference and networking event, which included panels and keynotes that explored why London is betting on AVs, the complex technical and legal hurdles that stand in the way of a wide-scale roll-out, how autonomous mobility will redefine how we use space in cities, and how delivery robots will solve last-mile logistics challenges. Notably, speakers across all the talks made reference to the fact that whatever the future of autonomous vehicles looks like, it needs to be “human-centric” and built around the end-user and their mobility needs. This overarching theme carried into the post-lunch talks as well.

Public Engagement and Adoption for Highly Automated and Autonomous Technology with PAVE Europe

The afternoon began with a keynote by Lukas Neckerman, Co-initiator of PAVE Europe, who declared that the “missing link” in the adoption of autonomous vehicles is education. According to 2020s Being Driven: A study on human adoption and ownership of autonomous vehicles, only 34% of the population answered they would be comfortable riding in an L4 or L5 self-driving car, meaning there is much work to be done in convincing the other 66%. According to Neckerman, their support can be won over through transparency, communication, and education, all of which PAVE Europe, a coalition of industry partners and nonprofit groups, is seeking to do. 

Featured Speaker: 

Lukas Neckermann, Co-initiator, PAVE Europe & COO, Splyt

Mobility Super Apps as Drivers for Urban Change with FREE NOW

 

Panelist Duncan Roberton, General Manager, UK & Ireland at Dott, brought the audience to the edge of their seats when he boldly stated that anyone interested in understanding what the future of self-driving cars will look like needs to look at the bike and scooter-sharing industry now. He elaborated on the complex challenges that arise when there are multiple private mobility operators within one city, as well as when a greater city or region has several different authorities and jurisdictions, as we see with London and its 32 boroughs. For instance, if one side of a street is located in the borough of the City of London and the other side in the borough of Camden, yet only one of these boroughs allows shared bikes to operate, what is a rider to do? Use only half the street? According to Duncan, if we can’t solve these issues with small-scale vehicles, then the future will be tough for autonomous vehicles. 

David Koral, Director, New Mobility Partnerships at Free Now, informed the crowd that we need to expect “several iterations” of autonomous vehicle projects, meaning that the first big-scale project launched will not be the final solution. The roll-out of this technology will be constantly evolving, and a standard framework for data sharing between companies and city authorities will be key to facilitating that each iteration is better than the last. 

Featured Speakers: 

  • David Koral, Director, New Mobility Partnerships, Free Now
  • Duncan Roberton, General Manager, UK & Ireland, Dott

Moderated by: 

Suzanne Hoadley, Senior Manager & Traffic Efficiency coordinator, POLIS 

Paving the Way to Autonomous Deliveries in London with Wayve

 

The second panel of the afternoon took on the “regulation vs. innovation” debate head-on. Dr. Sarah Gates, Wayve’s Head of Public Policy, commented that given the UK’s current political climate, “de-regulation” has become a fashionable talking point once again, as has the infamous innovation vs regulation myth.  According to Sarah, however, autonomous vehicles need regulation, especially in light of the many gray areas that currently exist. After all, there is actually nothing stopping a company from deciding to just throw a self-driving car on the road, which would be quite damaging to the industry. 

In addition, these regulations could result in major growth opportunities within the market as there is still much to be learned about deploying an autonomous fleet-deliveryor otherwise. For instance, who manages these fleets, who cleans the sensors, and who ensures that they are safe and following regulations?  This will naturally lead to the creation of new companies thatprovide the skills needed to fill the gaps in the market. 

Another important issue addressed is the fact that autonomous vehicles are part of a greater mobility system, and so cannot be siloed from other technologies. According to Dr. Siddartha Khastgir, Head of Verification & Validation of Connected & Autonomous Vehicles at the University of Warwick, L4 and L5 fleets will all be electric, and so a city’s e-mobility infrastructure needs to be developed bearing in mind that it will need to accommodate autonomous vehicles as well. 

Featured Speakers: 

  • Dr. Sarah Gates, Head of Public Policy, Wayve
  • James Barge, Sr. Director, Public Affairs, Asda
  • Matt Hervey, Head of Artificial Intelligence Law, Gowling WLG 
  • Dr. Siddartha Khastgir, Head of Verification & Validation (V&V) of Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) at WMG, University of Warwick 

Moderated by Andrew Bennett, Policy Principal, Form Ventures

AVs in the UK streets by 2025: Dream or Reality? with Autonomy

 

Moderator Ross Douglas, Autonomy’s Founder & CEO, kicked off the discussion by asking the panelists the titular question, receiving 2 ‘realities’ and 1 “dream” in response. He then informally polled the audience, asking how many people thought they would see delivery robots, autonomous shuttles, and robotaxis on British roads by 2025. An optimistic 50% believed delivery robots would be cruising around in less than 3 years, while one-third of the audience thought autonomous shuttles would also be rolled out by then. Only one, lone (and brave) audience member raised his hand to confirm that he believed robotaxis were coming soon.  

While there are millions upon millions of pedestrians in any given major city, their needs are often overlooked. Panelist Bronwen Thornton, CEO of Walk21 served as a voice for this underrepresented stakeholder, warning that while AVs have the potential to provide safer and greener transportation if they are ultimately used to replace ICE cars one-to-one, they will just become another “vehicle problem” we i.e. all the other road users will need to deal with. 

Michael Talbot, Deputy Head of the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, emphatically agreed, with Bronwen, noting that it is important that the technology is used to solve specific transportation problems and that “if we end up flooding streets with empty automated vehicles, then we have failed.” 

Sheelpa Patel, VP of Global Marketing Communications at Oxbotica, also chimed in, pointing out that this “nightmare scenario” can be avoided by finding the right strategy according to the technology and according to the city. She urged local authorities to take the lead in determining how this technology can co-exist with their cities, emphasizing that cities cannot simply replicate autonomous vehicle solutions.

The panel and the day ended on a lighter note when Bronwen, referring to a previous quip from Michael about programming self-driving cars to drop him off further away from home to increase his daily exercise, commented that this would actually be an ingenious addition to the technology: autonomous vehicles that actually encourage walking. 

Featured Speakers: 

  • Bronwen Thornton, CEO of Walk21
  • Sheelpa Patel, VP | Global Marketing Communications, Oxbotica 
  • Michael Talbot, Deputy Head of the UK Government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles 

Moderated by Ross Douglas, Founder &  CEO of Autonomy

The Day’s Key Takeaways 

Following this rich day of conferences, participants decamped to a local pub to discuss the day’s proceedings over a pint. What is clear is that autonomous vehicles will play an important role in the Motorist to Mobilist transition. However, there are some critical criteria that need to be considered in their development and deployment: 

  1. Autonomous vehicles need to be developed with the end-user in mind.
  2. Autonomous vehicles are part of a greater mobility system and the technology should not be developed in a silo .
  3. Tech cannot be developed for tech’s sake and autonomous mobility solutions need to respond to real mobility needs in cities while ultimately contributing to sustainability and safety.
  4. Regulation and transparency play a key role in not only ensuring the safety of AVs but also the buy-in of the public.
  5. Collaboration is key and the successful deployment of AVs requires policymakers, innovators, and consumers to communicate and work together.

This London City Summit is part of a larger Autonomy City Summit Series which organizes one-day conference and networking events in major mobility capitals, each centered around a different mobility-related theme. To learn more about how your company can become a City Summit Partner,  please reach out to carolina@autonomy.paris. If you want to attend future city summits, then sign up for our newsletter where we announce all of our events.