Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Action Needed to Assimilate Autonomous Facts - From Road Haulage Trucks to Container Ships

New Report Highlights Need for Automated Vehicle Modal Links
Shipping News Feature
UK – WORLDWIDE – A new report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is critical that a drive to autonomy in the transport sector is hindered by the fact that different modes, from aircraft to container ships, and indeed differing types of transport units across the same mode, as with cars and road haulage vehicles, are not currently inclined to share technologies and information. The report ‘Automated Vehicles: Cross-modal Learning in Autonomy’ says a lack of shared best practice is putting the brakes on the huge benefits, including safety and reduced congestion, that could be achieved with increased autonomy across different transport modes.

The report points out that different industries and transport modes need to learn from each other by developing a common approach to software standards, skills development and regulation. Without this transfer of learning, the wider use of autonomy in transport will not be realised and wide-ranging opportunities across road, rail, aerospace and maritime will be missed.

Autonomy is already common in rail, marine and air transport, for example autopilots are widely used in aircraft and maritime, whilst in the rail sector London’s DLR and Victoria line are both autonomous. In road haulage we have had the recent pan-European trial which saw a series of autonomous truck convoys successfully negotiate routes across the continent.

The report can be downloaded in full using the link above but some of its recommendations include the necessity of an information campaign to build public confidence in autonomous transport by explaining that it already plays a major part in the UK transport system. For example the ongoing troubles on Southern Rail have been characterised as a safety issue due to the lack of a guard by the RMT Union, whereas Southern Rail claims 30% of British trains have single manning and many are actually autonomously operated.

The IET also says that in-depth research is required to fully understand the behavioural and societal implications of autonomous transport. It is a simple fact that people often require the presence of another human ‘in the cab’ even when they take no real part in the operation of the machine. Sahar Danesh from the Institution of Engineering and Technology, commented:

“We are already seeing from driverless car trials that we can significantly improve safety [using] autonomy. Coupled with this, sectors such as rail and marine, have been running with a degree of autonomy for a number of years and it is vital that we share this best practice so that we can start to realise the benefits of autonomy more quickly. These include improved safety, reduced congestion and better mobility, particularly for older drivers.

“Currently, individual transport modes are carrying our research in isolation, which is preventing them from learning from the best practice already available in other transport modes. We must improve the learning transfer between different transport modes so that the potential societal benefits can be realised as soon as possible.”

Photo: Everything – except a driver. A mock-up of the lead carriage on the proposed driverless metro Line D in Praha, Czech Republic.