Future Agenda open foresight; the future of autonomous vehicles; Global Insights gained from Multiple Expert Discussions

3 March 2021

This is a report based on the synthesis of insights gained from a global open foresight project exploring the future of autonomous vehicles that was undertaken throughout 2019 and early 2020. It combines an analysis of existing research with opinion gained from multiple interviews and discussions that have taken place over the past year or so in Shanghai, London, Tokyo, Gothenburg, Austin and Toronto plus a series workshops held in Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Singapore, Wellington, Melbourne, Dubai, Singapore (at the global ITS World Congress event) and, finally, as a finale in Silicon Valley. The authors have done their best to accurately reflect the views they heard and the context in which they were expressed.

It is clear that, across the various markets, there are areas of alignment on some issues – but also notable nuances in approach to AVs that are different, country to country. From all discussions, nine key issues are emerging as significant – all of which are intricately inter-connected and collectively do indeed amount to a highly ‘wicked’ problem:

1.    Fleets are now driving progress: In terms of the dominant business models, momentum is clearly behind both robo-taxis and truck fleets.

2.    Automated trucks are coming: Freight has much to gain in terms of efficiency; this has regulatory momentum and wide industry support.

3.    Safety is a pre-requisite: Expectations are high, but as many advances are already in process, improvements look likely.

4.    Congestion is a conundrum: While the aim is for less congestion and the role of connectivity is pivotal, user behaviour and Transportation Network Company (TNC) strategies could initially mean more congestion.

5.    Multiple options for the last mile: There are many alternatives in the mix, all bridging different needs and location gaps.

6.    First vs widespread deployment: Where and why we see initial AV services may not necessarily align with where mass impact will occur.

7.    Deeper collaboration will be needed: Moving from partnerships to long-term multi-party collaboration is seen as a critical enabler.

8.    Technical standards may not be pivotal: Although comprehensive technical standards are advocated, they are not essential for AV; in some regions, safety standards will support regulation.

9.    Regulators are influencing deployment: Proactive regulation is attracting companies, but the balance of light vs. heavy regulatory approaches may impact this.