The Department for Transport (DfT), alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have made a number of announcements in recent days regarding government investment in technology use to improve either the efficiency or intelligence of Britain’s transport networks.
Since Friday last week, DfT has announced investments in accelerating the use of green tech for travel, making use of open data on roads, and new technology rollouts for major airports across the UK.
The Prime Minister has been on a spending spree in recent weeks as the government plans for the possibility of a no deal Brexit at the end of October, with money being found for the NHS, local towns, prisons and the police force. It appears that travel is the latest area to benefit from Boris’ Brexit bonus.
The announcements will also likely play into the government’s ambitious Industrial Strategy, which focuses on investments in infrastructure as one of its key themes.
First up, the Government announced that £300 million of investment will be made available to develop “cleaner, greener forms of transport”. The government will provide £125 million, which will be boosted by industry co-investment of up to £175 million.
The Department for Transport said that the cash could be used to support new technologies such as flying urban taxis, electric passenger planes and freight carrying drones.
In addition to this, five new transport research networks will receive £5 million for their work developing cleaner forms of fuel and other work to reduce emissions and improve air quality.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
From our shopping choices to planning our holidays, we rightly want to make decisions that protect the planet.
This £300 million investment will help speed up the development of greener flights, and new ways of delivering the goods we order online.
The UK is already recognised around the world as a centre for green tech. Now we will lengthen our lead, supporting our industry and our citizens to reduce their carbon footprint.
Despite the Prime Minister’s optimism, a recent Science and Technology Committee report found that the UK is not on course to meet its existing legally binding targets to reduce emissions by 2023, let alone its bold target to eliminate all emissions by 2050.
However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said:
New technologies like electric and autonomous aircraft can help us tackle climate change, making journeys greener and working better for passengers.
This funding will support the extraordinary talents of UK industry and academia, and demonstrate our country’s position as a world-leading transport innovator.
Open data and AI on the roads
The DfT also announced today that it is working with organisations, including local authorities and the Connected and Automated Vehicle sector, to introduce legislation to make it easier to access data around the predicted 50,000 yearly road closures - with the aim of making travelling “cleaner, greener, safer, easier and more reliable”.
The government has said that this could enable motorists to encourage quicker and easier getaways, as opening up the data relating to changes to the road networks could highlight potential traffic jams up to months in advance.
The government hopes that tech firms could access this data and develop and enhance navigational apps, using AI, warning drivers of planned disruptions to routes and offering alternatives.
These plans support the government’s Future of Mobility Grand Challenge, which considers whether current legislation is fit to take advantage of future technologies. It is thought that opening up road data could also help with route planning systems for self-driving vehicles, which the government hopes will position the UK as a “world leader” in self-driving vehicle tech.
Minister for the Future of Transport George Freeman said:
As a road user, there is nothing more frustrating than discovering roadworks and getting stuck in traffic jams.
Today’s announcement will help open up data, reducing congestion, pollution and frustration for road users.
Finally, Boris Johnson also this weekend announced plans for all major UK airports to introduce new 3D cabin baggage screening equipment. The new 3D technology, which the government has said uses the “most advanced imaging systems available”, aims to keep people safer by providing security personnel with better images of cabin baggage.
This could mean that future passengers may be able to keep liquids and electrical equipment, such as laptops, in their cabin luggage while its screened. Once in place, the 100ml liquid limit may also no longer apply.
Heathrow Airport is currently trialling the new 3D equipment, which will be gradually rolled out at other UK airports. The aim being, of course, that the amount of time required for security screening will be significantly reduced and the efficiency of through time at terminals for passengers is improved.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
We are home to the largest aviation network in Europe, with millions of people passing through our airports every year for work, holidays and family visits.
We’re set to streamline those trips with the rollout of this ground-breaking technology – cutting down hassle for travellers and improving security measures.
“By making journeys through UK airports easier than ever, this new equipment will help boost the vital role our airports play in securing the UK’s position as a global hub for trade, tourism and investment.