London City Summit 2022 at the Southbank Centre

Self-driving news from Autonomy’s London City Summit 2022

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London City Summit 2022: preparing the capital for safe self-driving

Autonomy’s invitation-only London City Summit at the Southbank Centre featured a great line-up of speakers on subjects ranging from self-driving tech to last-mile logistics.

It was 12 October and, hands up, I could only spare a few hours (including lunch, of course), so apologies to those I missed.

The overriding theme was the UK as a showcase for the safe adoption of self-driving, with world-class testing facilities and sensible standards… and therefore a prime location for investment.

Bosch on self-driving

The event was sponsored by Bosch and my first session was a keynote by their head of autonomous transport solutions, Olaf Monz.

London City Summit 2022: Olaf Monz of Bosch on self-driving
London City Summit 2022: Olaf Monz of Bosch on self-driving

“It’s not about selling a vehicle anymore, it’s about shaping an ecosystem,” he said, talking of the partnership with British software company, Five AI, which Bosch acquired earlier this year. 

He promised that Bosch’s approach would be “chip agnostic” and referred to “the magic moment when you can remove the driver”.

There followed a short video of Bosch’s self-driving car navigating around an 18km route in Stuttgart at speeds of up to 100km/h.

Next up was a panel moderated by Nick Reed, of Reed Mobility, and featuring Connor Champ, lawyer on the Automated Vehicles Project at the Law Commission of England and Wales, and Jakob Kammerer, senior product manager at Bosch.

London City Summit 2022: Nick Reed self-driving panel
London City Summit 2022: Nick Reed self-driving panel

Reflecting the candour which characterised the whole event, Reed expressed surprise that he was allowed to call the session “Are we sure we want AVs in cities?”

Champ detailed how the government had accepted virtually all of the Law Commission’s recommendations. Notably, encouraging “a no blame safety culture”, with a regulator similar to the Civil Aviation Authority, and an incident investigator similar to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

To facilitate public acceptance, he wants said authority to report on how implementation is going. However, when it came to measuring safety, “people disagreed with every suggested metric!”

Jakob Kammerer poetically referred to discovering “the beauty in software”, describing Bosch’s pioneering work on verification and validation.

“Our trials show that people are curious about self-driving,” he said. “Transparency always helps. We explain what we are doing and why – to make improved mobility for everyone. Once they see that a product is good, that it works and solves a problem, they will adopt it very quickly.”

Buro Happold on self-driving

The next panel was moderated by Federico Cassani, director of transport and mobility at Buro Happold, and featured Prof Bani Anvari, of University College London, Margarethe Theseira, head of UK consulting at Buro Happold, and designer Marco Mazzotta of Heatherwick Studio.

London City Summit 2022: Federico Cassani self-driving panel
London City Summit 2022: Federico Cassani self-driving panel

Prof Anvari outlined the impressive facilities at UCL’s new Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory (PEARL) in East London, where they create all manner of life-sized surroundings and examine how people interact with them.

Theseira, an economist who advised on the new Elizabeth Line, looked at the costs and benefits of self-driving – the likelihood that “the real benefits will come when everything is fully automated”, but also her worry that “it will be a rich person’s toy”. She noted that car ownership is already much lower among lower income groups, resulting in restricted access to mobility and increased loneliness.

Cassani saw self-driving as “an opportunity for far more equitable mobility”, while Mazzotta mused on how cities might evolve architecturally with widespread AV adoption. He suggested that a huge amount of parking space could be freed up, asking: “What will we use the space for? Is it going to be public or private?”

Self-driving education

The last keynote before lunch was by Yasmine Fage, co-founder of Goggo Network, on her vision to provide all people with autonomous, electric and shared mobility. She described last mile delivery as “an increasing pain point for companies in cities”, and pointed to Goggo’s mobile lockers in Paris as one of many innovative solutions.

The networking lunch – a veritable banquet – was a chance to catch up with, among others, Lukas Nekermann (more of him in a moment), Patricia La Torre of Humanising Autonomy, Richard Barrington of Smart Cities and Land Mobility, Roland Meister of Five, Luigi Bisbiglia of SBD Automotive, Mark Cracknell of Zenzic, the CCAV’s Michael Talbot, and Dr Martin Dürr of Dromos.

London City Summit 2022: Lukas Nekermann on self-driving education
London City Summit 2022: Lukas Nekermann on self-driving education

Immediately after lunch came a keynote by the aforementioned Mr Neckermann, of PAVE Europe. Cars of the Future readers will be familiar with PAVE’s origins in America and their mission to “inform the public about automated vehicles”. Despite a jibe from the audience about the required marketing budget (!), such educational initiatives must surely be welcomed.

Mobility super-apps

Next-up, the final session for me, was a panel on “mobility super-apps”, moderated by Suzanne Hoadley, of Polis, and featuring Duncan Robertson, of e-scooter and e-bike operator Dott, and David Koral of Free Now, “the app with the largest vehicle choice for consumers across Europe”.

London City Summit 2022: mobility super-apps panel
London City Summit 2022: mobility super-apps panel

Robertson argued that decision makers must limit the number of operators as “having too many doesn’t work for anyone, although consumers might benefit from a price war to start with.”

Koral highlighted the importance of offering “anywhere to anywhere” journeys within cities and beyond, while both were surprisingly open to sharing data with public authorities.

The stat of the day was the Transport for London target that, by 2041, 80% of journeys in the capital should be either by public transport or active travel.

My capsule review is that reassuring uncertainty abounded. There was general agreement that self-driving will be a gamechanger, but people freely admitted they didn’t have all the answers. How will AVs impact future mobility? How quickly?

Many of the big questions remain unanswered, and we in the UK are comfortable with that for now, because safety is our top priority. 

For further info, visit the London City Summit page on the Autonomy website

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Author: Neil Kennett

Neil is MD of Featurebank Ltd. He launched in 2019.