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.  

Intro: “If you can showcase your AV tech in London, you are showcasing it to the world”

For a conference that focused on driverless technology such as autonomous shuttles, delivery robots and, robotaxis, the word “human” sure did come up a lot during Autonomy’s October 12th London City Summit. While the event’s speakers came from a range of sectors and held different ideas about what the future of AVs could look like, they all agreed on one thing:  putting the end-user, aka us humans, and our mobility needs at the center of the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles is absolutely critical. 

Held at the Southbank Centre, situated right next to the iconic London eye and with sweeping views of the Thames, the London City Summit welcomed 150 participants to discuss and debate the future of AVs in the UK. The event’s Lead Partners were Bosch and London & Partners while other partners included: the UK International Department of Trade, the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Buro Happold, Free Now, Wayve, Goggo Network, PAVE Europe, and Polis Network. 

The choice to host this AV conference in London was a no-brainer as the English capital  has become a hot testing bed for the technology. As Jo Hawley, Deputy Director Aerospace, Space and Automotive at the UK Department for International Trade pointed out, an astounding 2/3rds of all foreign investment related to AVs is being poured into the UK and that if you can showcase your autonomous vehicles technology in the UK, you are effectively showcasing it to the world.

Setting the Scene: From Motorist to Mobilist

The day was presided over by Master of Ceremonies and official voice of the London Bus System and Elizabeth Line rail service, Emma Hignett. 

First up on stage was Ross Douglas, Autonomy’s Founder & CEO who set the scene by addressing the “Motorist to Mobilist” transition that is currently underway (i.e. why we must decrease private car ownership in favor of more flexible and sustainable mobility options) and why autonomous vehicles have an important role to play in this evolution. 

Thomas Abelman, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Transport for London and Marco Schmidt, the Senior Manager Automotive Software & Systems Development at Bosch both spoke about this transition from the city and industry perspectives, respectively. Thomas explored London’s ambitious plans to develop cleaner, safer and more efficient ways for citizens to get around, while Marco discussed how his company has built a team of over 1000 engineers dedicated to developing the AV technology that will help make London’s mobility vision a reality. 

Marco also reminded the audience that the UK Department of Trade predicts that the self-driving vehicle market could create up to 38,000 highly skilled jobs in the UK and be worth nearly £62bn by 2030.

Needless to say, opportunities abound! 

Featured Speakers: 

  • Ross Douglas, Founder & CEO, Autonomy Paris 
  • Pru Ashby, Head of Sustainability, London & Partners
  • Thomas Abelman, Director of Strategy and Innovation, Transport for London 
  • Marco Schmidt,  Senior Manager Automotive Software & Systems Development at Bosch

The City Hour

It’s not a “City Summit” without the city and so local and regional government officials were featured front and center during the hour-long City Hour panel.  Moderator Pru Ashby, Head of Sustainability at London & Partners, wasted no time in getting to the heart of the topic by asking the panel point blank what cities want from connected and autonomous mobility. 

Short answer: they want a lot. 

Long answer: 

They want autonomous vehicles to provide safer, cleaner and more accessible transport for all citizens. As Thomas Ableman of TFL succinctly put it, “We don’t need to be first and fastest, but the safest and most sustainable.” 

They want to become world leaders in autonomous vehicle technology as a way to stimulate economic growth and create jobs. Trevor Dorling, Director of Digital Greenwich, recounted how his borough had lost approximately 150,000 manufacturing jobs over the last century. Throwing full support behind the burgeoning  AV sector would be a way to bring high-skilled jobs back. 

They want autonomous vehicles to answer the mobility needs of their citizens and complement mass transit. While TFL is aiming to ensure that 80% of London’s roads are dedicated to public transport and active mobility by 2041, what about the other 20%? This is a gap shared autonomous mobility solutions could fill. 

They want to collaborate. Like in many sectors, allowing innovation to thrive while implementing effective regulation is a balancing act. This is why all the panelists agreed that collaboration is key, with Pru exclaiming that collaboration starts at events like the London City Summit, which brings together private, public and institutional actors. 

Featured Speakers:

  • Thomas Ableman, Director of Strategy & Innovation, Transport for London
  • Jo Hawley, Deputy Director Aerospace, Space and Automotive, UK Department for International Trade
  • James Long, Head of Technical Consulting, Smart Mobility Living Lab: London
  • Hannah Newell, Director Future Transport Systems & Environment, Department for Transport, United Kingdom 
  • Trevor Dorling, CEO & Managing Director, DG Cities Limited, Director Digital Greenwich, Royal Borough of Greenwich

Moderated by: Pru Ashby, Head of Sustainability, London & Partners 

Keynote: Industry Perspective on Automated Driving with Bosch

We quickly jumped from cities to industry when Olaf Monz took the stage. As Head of Autonomous Transport Solutions at Bosch, he understands the proverbial minefield companies face when it comes to answering the ultimate question: 

‘When can you be really sure that you can remove the driver?’

While the potential of the technology is enormous as it can be deployed across multiple markets, there are a number of pitfalls that stand between companies and the answer to that magic question above. These include ensuring that you are using the right metrics; avoiding the use of overly simplistic models; underestimating the auditable processes; and truly understanding the design domain as every single component of an autonomous vehicle needs to be compliant

Featured Speaker:Olaf Monz, Head of Autonomous Transport Solutions, Bosch

Panel: Are We Sure We Want AVs in our Cities? With Bosch 

The audience tittered when the title of the panel appeared on the screen. If the panel ultimately concluded ‘no’ would that be our sign to pack up and leave? Before we even got to the free lunch?

Fortunately, the discussion delivered a balanced and nuanced look at the product and legal-oriented hurdles that AV manufacturers need to overcome if they want their vehicles to operate in cities.

On the product side, we had Jakob Kammerer, a Senior Product Manager from Bosch who explained the importance of AVs not only passing complex production and verification processes, but also surviving a potentially more complicated gauntlet: gaining public approval. According to Jakob, companies can win the public‘s trust by: 

    1. Differentiating between the people using the vehicle and those around the vehicle (such as pedestrians) as we need the buy-in of both, and; 
    2. Developing a product that people actually want and need. 

Over on the legal side, we had Connor Champ, who as a lawyer working on the Automated Vehicles Project for the Law Commission of England and Wales, understands the regulatory complexities that go hand-in-hand with autonomous vehicle deployment. He sees AVs as an opportunity to apply stricter standards to the automobile industry, similar to how the aviation and maritime industries are highly regulated to improve safety. 

Featured Speakers: 

  • Connor Champ, Lawyer – Automated Vehicles Project, Law Commission of England and Wales
  • Jakob Kammerer, Senior Product Manager, Bosch

Moderated by:  Nick Reed, Founder, Reed Mobility

How Autonomous Vehicles Inform the Mobility in Cities with Burro Happold

Moderator Federico Cassani, Director of Transport and Mobility at Buro Happold, kicked off the discussion by recounting the disruptive effects of mobility on city design throughout history. From the ancient Roman roads to the advent of the train to the rise of the automobile, urban planning is inextricably linked to innovation in mobility. As autonomous vehicles will be no different, what are some of the changes we can expect to see? 

    • Parking lots and spaces are now rendered obsolete by shared, autonomous mobility, which results in the repurposing of space.
    • Greater accessibility for disabled populations and greater, continued “freedom” for aging populations.
    • The rejuvenation of small towns, which can afford to implement AV transport solutions, as opposed to the heavy and expensive infrastructure of transitional mass transit.

In line with the day’s unofficial overarching theme — it’s all about the human being — the panelists agreed that ultimately we need a “human-centric” vision when it comes to redesigning our mobility systems and adapting our cities.

Featured Speakers: 

  • Bani Anvari, Professor of Intelligent Mobility, University College London 
  • Margarethe Theseira, Head of UK Consulting, Buro Happold
  • Marco Mazzotta, Associate – Project Leader, Heatherwick Studio

Moderated by Federico Cassani, Director of Transport and Mobility, Buro Happold

Keynote: AVs for Last-mile Logistics : Safer, Cleaner, Faster with Goggo Network

While logistic vehicles account for 20% of all vehicles in a city, they contribute to a whopping 50% of pollution. What’s the solution to cutting down on last-mile delivery emissions? According to Yasmine Fage, Founder of Goggo Network, it is by using autonomous vehicles which are sized according to the size of their contents. So, robots! She is talking about deploying autonomous delivery robots, which will not only improve sustainability in cities but also cut costs for companies and improve delivery efficiency. While describing her company’s various trials, she discussed the advantages and the pain points that come with scaling such operations. 

 

Featured Speaker: Yasmine Fage, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder at Goggo Network

This concludes the packed morning of panels and keynotes. Stay tuned for next week’s Part II of the London City Summit Rundown featuring panels and keynotes by FREE NOW, PAVE Europe, Wayve and Autonomy.  Here’s a taste of what you can expect: 

  • Just how trusting is the public really of AVs? 
  • What can AV operators learn from the rapid and, let’s be honest, chaotic deployment of shared electric scooters in cities over the last few years? 
  • Can we truly reconcile regulation with innovation or will they always be at odds? 
  • Will the UK actually succeed in rolling out autonomous vehicles by 2025?

In the meantime, peruse the event photo gallery below for some behind the scenes snaps and see you next week! 

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.