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Supporting the acceleration towards automation


Despite autonomous vehicles once being viewed as a concept for the distant future, the reality is that they are already in operation across the UK’s road network.

While the scale of autonomy ranges from tools like adaptive cruise control to fully self-driving vehicles that do not require a human driver or occupants, there are many technologies that fall in between.   

“Logistics UK is highly focused on the development of the right technologies that can optimise efficiency and support logistics operations in becoming more flexible and resilient,” says Phil Lloyd, Head of Engineering Policy at Logistics UK.  

“Responding to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into self-driving vehicles in 2022, Logistics UK welcomed government’s forward thinking around the regulatory environment to support connected and automated technology, which the business group believes will ultimately support its development and adoption in the UK.”  

DEVELOPED TECHNOLOGIES 

Many of the developed technologies adopted so far by industry include Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that focus on improving the safety of the vehicle and driver, as well as pedestrians, cyclists and other road users.  

Examples of these features include lane departure and assistance, assistance-warning parking sensors or emergency braking systems.  

In addition to the potential for these systems to aid detection and accident prevention for road users, safety benefits could also be delivered through reduced driver fatigue with increased autonomy used in vehicles travelling longer distances, for example trunking or from distribution centre to distribution centre.  

“Given the logistics sector’s focus on safety, it is important to ensure that with the use of technology in vehicles increasing, and modern vehicles becoming more sophisticated, the vehicles themselves are well maintained,” says Mr Lloyd.  

“However, this can be challenging for operators who carry out their own maintenance and third-party maintenance providers if they do not have specialist knowledge and training in these advanced technologies. 

“In Q3 2022, 95% of respondents to a Logistics UK survey noted continuing problems filling vacancies for mechanics and technicians.  

“In June of this year a small increase in funding for the Heavy Vehicle Service and Maintenance apprenticeship was agreed. However, this was only a £2,000 rise since 2017, which does not cover the inflationary impact on the economy during that time.  

“In the view of Logistics UK, this funding should be increased to £23,000 in line with inflation, and the recruitment of new technicians – and any necessary upskilling of existing technicians – should be carried out at pace.”   

INTELLIGENT CONNECTIVITY 

As vehicles move progressively up the scale of autonomy, intelligent connectivity in the form of vehicle to vehicle (V2V) is vital, with important information such as potential incidents and dangers, as well as congestion and traffic flow, passed on from one vehicle to another.  

In addition to V2V, vehicle to infrastructure (V2X) is also important, connecting the vehicle with the infrastructure around it so that it can comply with regulations such as traffic lights and variable speed limits.    

However, with large amounts of data needing to flow between and within each vehicle, data protection and criminal interference is a considerable safety risk.  

As a result, work is taking place to identify what procedures and security systems can be implemented to prevent intentional, and unintentional, entry via connections with other devices.  

With technology and hacking systems constantly developing, this is likely to remain an area of concern for the foreseeable future.   

“Overall, Logistics UK is broadly supportive of autonomy, providing safety remains a key priority, and employment is not negatively affected,” confirms Mr Lloyd.  

“I believe there are great benefits for our industry – including increased efficiency and road safety. However, the transition must also be managed effectively to ensure the costs of developing this autonomy are not a hindrance to progress.  

“Additionally, any necessary supporting infrastructure should be identified and delivered, and – as connected and automated technologies are a new area of development for most logistics businesses – the correct training and expertise must be available.”  

Published On: 26/10/2023 12:00:17

 

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