The future of mobility and transport

Gemma Davis | Director | Law | +44 (0) 207 9809 143 |

With transport now the highest emitting sector of the economy, responsible for around 26% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, there is seen to be a need to improve the infrastructure and the affordability of cleaner modes of transport, with a target of zero emissions. This is why, in March this year, the UK government announced the biggest regulatory review in a generation around new transport modes, entitled Future of mobility: urban strategy, which was followed by the Green Finance Strategy announced in July.

Advances in technology and business models have already had an impact on the way we move around our cities with the introduction of e-bikes and e-scooters, car-pooling and an increase in charge points for electric vehicles. The next wave of change is likely to embrace further advances in data science, artificial intelligence and sensing technology to increase the speed of transport innovation. It is hoped that this is likely to lead to cleaner transport, automation, new business models and new modes of travel that will transform how people, goods and services move. The challenge will be to effectively manage and regulate these changes to ensure that our infrastructure can cope with the change in a safe and effective way.

The review will explore regulation around new types of vehicles including e-scooters and e-cargo bike trailers, how sharing data can improve services by reducing congestion, and how journey planning and payment can be made simpler. £90 million will be invested in towns and cities to test transport innovation to see to what extent journeys can be made greener, easier, safer and more reliable.

Much of our regulation around transportation is based upon laws dating back to the 1800s and is not fit for purpose for the next wave of change. Whilst we have seen the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act pass through Parliament, representing a significant step towards an electric vehicle revolution and improved air quality, reduced congestion and boosted road safety, there is still a desperate need for an overhaul of current regulation to accommodate the likely fast paced changing nature of transport and mobility of the future.  

The Department for Transport is already reviewing regulation around zero emission vehicles, autonomous vehicles and drones but going forward more fundamental reform will be required to look at a whole spectrum of issues including how we define different vehicles, how they are powered, where they can be used, who is responsible for them and how data collected should be used and protected. Employment legislation also needs to be brought up to date to deal with new business models that have evolved in the transport and mobility space.

Innovation in the transport and mobility sector could bring enormous benefits, making transport safer, easier, and greener. Done well, it could boost productivity and investment, increase export opportunities for UK companies and create high-quality jobs. However, if technological changes are not effectively managed they could have numerous undesired effects that could include safety issues, data breaches and disruption.

It has never been more important for there to be an in-depth review and overhaul of our regulation around transport and mobility. For transport and mobility to keep up with the pace of change seen in other industries, an innovative and flexible regulatory framework is needed. That framework must keep people safe and promote active and accessible travel, while providing certainty for investment and space for innovation.