Following the government’s budget announcement in March, the government confirmed the creation of a £90million funding programme to support trials of emerging transport technologies (the 'Programme'). The Programme will take place across three areas of the UK – namely, Portsmouth and Southampton, Derby and Nottingham, and the West of England Combined Authority.
Each of these geographical areas will test a new transport project including:
- drones carrying medical supplies as a new option for last-mile delivery for freight;
- self-driving cars providing point-to-point transportation; and
- the introduction of a booking platform which will allow the booking of one journey covering multiple modes of transport, otherwise known as a mobility-as-a-service ('MaaS') platform.
Alongside the Programme, the government has launched a consultation into the UK’s transport laws. This consultation is focused on the opportunities and risks of MaaS platforms and what role central and local governments should play in their development.
Aside from the input of a number of key government stakeholders, this consultation will undoubtedly require collaboration with automotive OEMs and other MaaS providers, such as Uber.
In light of the challenges facing supply chain integrity and the movement of patients during the Covid-19 crisis, some aims of the Programme could never seem more relevant (e.g. the means of moving patients and supplies around without compromising social distancing measures).
On the other hand, it is hard to see how some aims of the Programme (such as MaaS platform development for public transport) will be unaffected; with automotive OEM factory shutdowns and business model re-structuring for 2020, and the public being advised to avoid public transport.
With all this in mind, it may make sense for the government to focus on the elements of the Programme that affect the here and now as a priority, coming back to the fundamental MaaS element of the Programme when circumstances allow. Whether this will happen in practice and whether the Programme will continue as planned, both remain to be seen.
New transport tech to be tested in biggest shake-up of laws in a generation.