Connected and autonomous vehicles ‘will transform lives’


Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), for which commercial vehicles play a significant role in the development of new technology, will transform the lives of six out of every 10 people in the UK, according to new research published recently by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Revolutionising Mobility in Society, the first comprehensive UK-based study of the human impact of CAVs, canvassed the views of more than 3,600 respondents and found that this new technology will offer freedom to some of society’s most disadvantaged, including those with disabilities, older people and the young.

The CV Sector plays a critical role in bringing CAV systems to market, as the nature of larger vehicles makes it easier for designers and engineers to test prototype systems, as proven by autonomous truck trials that are already taking place in the USA.

The research, conducted with Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting arm, shows CAVs have the potential to reduce social exclusion significantly. Six out of 10 (57%) people surveyed said this new technology would improve their quality of life. 

For young people, the impact could be even greater, with 71% of those aged 17 to 24 believing their lives would be improved. Consumers are increasingly seeing the benefits of CAVs, with 56% feeling positive about them. Young people were most excited, with almost half (49%) saying they would get into a CAV today if one were available.

Automatic braking and parking and a vehicle’s ability to self-diagnose faults were cited as features most likely to reduce stress – the biggest attraction of owning a CAV among all groups.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “The benefits of connected and autonomous vehicles are life-changing, offering more people greater independence, freedom to socialise, work and earn more, and access services more easily. While fully autonomous vehicles will be a step change for society, this report shows people are already seeing their benefits. The challenge now is to create the conditions that will allow this technology to thrive, given how it will deliver wider societal advantages.”

Mark Couttie, Strategy partner, said, “There is a real risk that this momentum and competitor advantage in the UK will stall if we don’t do more to create positive public perception, overcoming our inherent risk averse culture. Expanding people’s horizons about the advantages of fully autonomous [vehicles] is a vital first step. This means better communicating the art of the possible to increase social acceptance and dispel concerns that our survey identified relating to cost and safety. Significant investment must also be made to improve the connectivity infrastructure across the UK road network and this report provides a number of clear recommendations to ensure that we capitalise on this window of opportunity.”

Although fully connected and autonomous vehicles aren’t expected to become mainstream until 2030, most new vehicles are now connected via sat nav or Bluetooth, and many are available with safety systems such as collision warning or autonomous emergency braking. The UK is also fast establishing itself as a centre of excellence for this exciting new technology, with billions of pounds of investment already delivering public trials of autonomous driving and testing of prototype vehicles on UK roads.

SMMT has already identified a £51 billion economic opportunity to the UK, as well as the potential to prevent some 25,000 road accidents and save 2,500 lives. This new research suggests that the potential of CAVs to get more people into education, work, and enabling them to more freely access healthcare, amenities and leisure activities, could deliver a further economic boost.