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Self-driving event review: Zenzic CAM Innovators 2023

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Zenzic CAM Innovators 2023: a superior self-driving sequel

Last year’s Zenzic Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) Innovators event was a hard act to follow, forever remembered as our first post-covid industry do. 12 months on, CAM Innovators 2023 was a superior sequel – better attended and more vibrant, despite strike action by many of the keyworkers so lauded during the pandemic.

The venue was the same, the impressive Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) on The Embankment, but this time the generous breakfast was dominated by tales of travel disruption due to the tube strike. 200+ self-driving enthusiasts battling through London gridlock to discuss clean, convenient future mobility.

Heavy traffic on the day of the self-driving event
Heavy traffic on the day of the self-driving event

Fortunately, the packed agenda and quality networking made it more than worthwhile… and hats off to the organisers for that! Registration was on the third floor, with views across the river and displays by the latest cohort of CAM Scale-Up winners.

Here, we caught up with Michael Talbot of CCAV, Tom Leggett of Thatcham, Dr Kashif Siddiq of Oxford RF and Dr Antje Völker of Dromos, and met some new people too – Emily from kids’ science activity provider Curiosity Box, and Richard, a cybersecurity expert from Siemens.

L-R: Kashif, Emily and Antje
L-R: Kashif, Emily and Antje

Before long we were gently encouraged to the ground floor theatre for a welcome by Zenzic’s Frances Williamson and Mark Cracknell.

CAM champion

There followed a keynote speech by Paul Newman of Oxbotica, recently appointed UK Automotive Council CAM Champion, who emphasised that autonomy is a system rather than a technology. “It must be delivered where it is needed most, not just in London and the Oxbridge area,” he said.

Mili Naik of Zenzic on key priorities
Mili Naik of Zenzic on key priorities

Mili Naik of Zenzic then provided a sneak preview of the newly updated UK CAM Roadmap to 2035. Notably, it predicts self-driving on the road in the UK by 2025, with a priority to build public confidence in CAM.

The first panel of the day, “What a truly connected and automated mobile future looks like”, was moderated by Zenzic’s Francis McKinney and featured Catherine Lovell of CCAV, David Skipp of Ford, David Telford of HV Systems, Gareth Bathers of Cyient, and Michael Hurwitz of PA Consulting.

Key stated benefits included enhanced mobility solutions for all, the oft-quoted 90%+ reduction in road accidents and, interestingly, a 70% energy saving.

Self-driving opportunities

Zenzic’s Bhavin Makwana then looked at “the opportunities for the UK to compete on a global stage”, with particular strengths in intellectual property, cybersecurity and insurance.

The second panel of the day, focussing on international perspectives, was moderated by Zenzic’s Edita Sawyers and Nicola Hare. It featured Per Olof Arnäs of Einride, Corey Clothier of Stantec, Katy Pell from the Department for Business and Trade, Ben Loewenstein of Waymo, Rebecca Marsden of Oxbotica and Kieran Borrett of Plug and Play.

Self-driving experts discuss the UK's global leadership prospects
Self-driving experts discuss the UK’s global leadership prospects

There was broad agreement that the UK needs to do more to establish itself as a global leader in CAM, with a surprising lack of recognition in America especially. Plenty of food for thought then, as we broke for lunch – and very nice it was too.

CAM Scale-up winners

The afternoon session began with Zenzic’s Phillip Ironside introducing representatives of the seven companies currently receiving support via the Zenzic CAM Scale-Up Programme – John Strutton of Axitech, Mihai Caleap of Calyo, Martin Dürr of Dromos, Anna Corp of Eloy, John Cartledge of Gaist, Kashif Siddiq of Oxford RF, and Mike Handley of PolyChord.

The current cohort of CAM Scale-up winners
The current cohort of CAM Scale-up winners

Each had just 90 seconds to give their elevator pitch in a whirlwind of incredible innovation!

Daniela Menzky, of first Scale-Up cohort Angoka, then hosted a panel on the challenges facing start-ups. It featured Chris Reeves of Horiba Mira, Thomas Sors of second cohort Beam Connectivity, and Damian Horton of Eloy. The pleasing message was that Zenzic CAM Scale-Up support dramatically accelerates product development.

Commercialising CAM

We’d already heard from 10 or so companies in the hour since lunch and the pace picked up again as Michael Talbot introduced us to “The world’s most comprehensive mix of self-driving projects” – the seven winners of CCAV’s Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility competition.

Jim Fleming of Fusion Processing spoke on behalf of CAVForth2, David Telford of HV Systems for Hub2Hub, Mike Dawson of Belfast Harbour Commissioners for Project Harlander, Gemma Schroeder of the Greater Cambridge Partnership for Project Connector, Liz St Louis of Sunderland City Council for Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle, Paul Butler of the North East Automotive Alliance for V-CAL, and Tom Robinson of Conigital for Multi-Area Connected Automated Mobility (MACAM).

Amidst the plethora of ambitious plans, Project Harlander in Belfast has perhaps the greatest scope. It covers the vast port area, which has its own bylaws and therefore isn’t reliant on new UK legislation.

Questions from the audience included Professor Nick Reed enquiring about sharing data on safety – the panel all saw the benefits of working collaboratively – and Thatcham asking about OEM considerations – the only time all day that anyone mentioned conventional passenger cars!

CAM community

After a half-hour break for coffee and networking – a welcome chance to catch-up with Clem Robertson of R4dar – Kirsten Williamson of Petrus spoke briefly about skills and training, before joining a panel hosted by Zenzic’s Kit Golda on “Creating a UK CAM community”.

The final panel session at CAM Innovators 2023
The final panel session at CAM Innovators 2023

They were joined by Karla Jakeman (previously of Innovate UK and now head of automated transport at TRL), Dr Antje Völker of Dromos, Dr Sally Stares of City University and Mark Preston of Streetdrone.

The latter explained how HGV drivers giving advice on reversing had been recruited to develop the AI, becoming leading advocates for self-driving.

The headline finding was that jobs in CAM are highly appealing to school children, much more so than traditional automotive – a suitably positive note on which to finish another fantastic event.

So, a date for your diary – we’ll do it all again next year, on 13 March.

Zenzic CAM Innovators Event 2024
Zenzic CAM Innovators Event 2024
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Author: Neil Kennett

Neil is MD of Featurebank Ltd. He launched Carsofthefuture.co.uk in 2019.