A keynote speaker at this year’s The Future of Transportation World Conference proposes transforming the outdated HS2 rail project into the world’s first autonomous car and truck superhighway, at a fraction of the railway cost.
Talking in Cologne earlier this week, conference founder Tony Robinson, an expert in the autonomous vehicle and transportation environment, said, “Right now we have the possibility of leading the digital revolution in transportation. Creating a superhighway for autonomous vehicles would be a far more efficient and cost-effective solution compared with building an outdated rail network. We already have a rail industry crisis. We’ve all but nationalized our rail services and now we are spending £45bn on a new rail network that nobody wants. On the other hand, we could build the world’s first superhighway for cars and freight, which would be a showcase for British industry just when Brexit gives the UK a negative global image. And what’s more, people would embrace an autonomous superhighway as opposed to a project that, by the time it’s finished in 2032, will be hopelessly outdated.
“The technology for autonomous cars is now substantially ready for mass utilization,” continued Robinson. “The issue that holds it back is the complexity of the highway infrastructure that autonomous cars are required to operate in. This complexity includes roads that may have been conceived 50 years or more ago, intersections that are outdated, the difficulty of safeguarding pedestrians, and other peculiarities of an old road network. With the creation of an entirely new infrastructure – which is in effect what HS2 is giving rise to – the UK will have a readily utilizable landscape for the operation of Level 5 autonomous vehicles, the level at which drivers can literally sit back and relinquish control. Benefits include the potential for vehicles to ‘platoon’ very closely together, which will result in better capacity utilization of the road network as well as better fuel efficiency, particularly in the case of commercial vehicles. Statistics relating to cost universally suggest that building a multiple-lane motorway is a lot less expensive than building a lesser-capacity railway. There is potential for a huge cost reduction for the British Government and taxpayer – money that could be better channelled into the NHS. Indeed, in terms of savings, a fully autonomous superhighway actually has the potential to eliminate accidents altogether.”
"Bell is at the forefront of on-demand mobility – ushering in a new era of flight where the benefits of aviation are accessible to more people in more places," said Scott Drennan, Bell's director of Innovation, while speaking at the Transportation Conference. "This announcement is another proof point of our commitment to providing transportation of people and logistics in new, innovative and more efficient ways; our work with Safran is a historical milestone for future transport solutions."
For several years, Safran innovation teams have been actively exploring the potential of hybrid solutions for future propulsion systems. Bell and Safran's shared vision for electric and hybrid electric aircraft is to strive for the successful deployment of Bell Air Taxis and new on-demand mobility systems in the future.
"Thanks to the long and sustained technology development strategy conducted within Safran, we can now offer Bell our hybrid electric power solutions for their next-generation products that result in improved performance giving more value to our customers," said Stéphane Cueille, Safran senior executive vice president, R&T and Innovation.
In this collaboration, Bell will lead the design, development and production of VTOL systems, and Safran will bring its technical expertise to bear in the development of a disruptive propulsion system.
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Interview with Alan Haigh, head of department, Horizon 2020 Energy and Transport, INEA Executive Agency, European Commission, who discusses his presentation entitled 'The role of INEA in supporting transport research, innovation and deployment including infrastructure, smart grids and smart cities', made at The Future of Transportation World Conference in Cologne, Germany.Click here to see more