Last month (March 2021), the Department of Transport ran a consultation on connected and autonomous mobility (CAM) in road transport. Cyclist.ie sent in a submission on it.
In our submission, we argued that the overarching guiding principles to inform the roll-out of CAM in Ireland should be as follows:
- Impacts on energy use (particularly fossil energy and to include the embodied energy of vehicles themselves)
- Impacts on emissions (and not only the direct emissions from vehicles but also from the emissions from electrical power generation plants of various types)
- Efficiency in the use of finite (urban) public space – i.e. number of people carried per lane per hour, as compared to mass transit and cycling.
- Consistency with creating a liveable and convivial public realm that is not dominated by motorized vehicles
- Impacts on people wishing to use healthy / active travel modes.
- Pedestrians, and people with disabilities, followed by cyclists, need to be at the top of the urban mobility pyramid of rights and priorities, where the more powerful vehicle should be recognised as at fault unless they can prove otherwise both morally and legally, as is the case already in other jurisdictions.
- The expansion of CAM cannot work on the basis of assuming that people walking, scooting or on cycles wear ‘safety devices’ (transponders), and cyclists and pedestrians should not be morally (or legally) obliged to carry devices on their person or bike.
- The devices carried by motor vehicles can make no assumption about the requirement for a cyclist or pedestrian to be in a mandatory position on the road. In most communities and roads, cycle tracks do not exist, or are not mandatory, and all codes have exemptions for the far too common situation where infrastructure is blocked or unusable. There are many, many reasons why cyclists and pedestrians may have to leave a pavement, cycle path or the edge of the road, and indeed to cross roads, so the next generation of devices must not rely on some form of conformity in behaviour.
What we do not want to see in the future is the same oversized Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) – but in a ‘connected and/or autonomous’ format – dominating urban streets and accentuating problems related to emissions and the use of finite resources (and not just fossil fuels). We know from UK research reported on by the BBC on 7th April 2021 that three quarters of all SUVs sold in the UK are registered to people living in towns and cities, and it wouldn’t surprise us if similar figures applied in Ireland.
What we really need is a transformative shift in mobility policy and culture, where smaller (genuinely) zero carbon vehicles and active travel are prioritised – and not the promotion of autonomised versions of already oversized motor cars. We also need to be alert to being overwhelmed and blinded by the hype and unchallenged claims associated with some promotions of autonomous and connected vehicles.
You can read Cyclist.ie’s submission to the Department of Transport here.
You can read an article posted by the European Cyclists’ Federation on Automated vehicles, connected transport technologies and cycling here.