Government considers regulation ‘shake-up’ in the face of new transport tech

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez March 16, 2020
A “once in a generation” review is being carried out to reform regulation in transport, with the view to better foster new technologies.

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(Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay )

The government has launched a review of transport laws, declaring that this is a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to ‘shake up’ regulations in the fact of rapidly changing transport technology. 

The review is taking into consideration everything from zero-emission vehicles, to self-driving cars, drones, transport data and the role of government in creating a Mobility-as-a-Service platform. 

The review as a whole will likely take three years, with the initial consultation and call for evidence closing on 22 May 2020. 

Alongside the review, some £90 million of funding is being made available to carry out trials of new transport technologies in three ‘future transport zones’. These will provide real-world testing environment for experts, with the aim that they will work with a range of local bodies, including councils, hospitals, airports and universities. 

The zones set to receive a share of the funding are in Portsmouth and Southampton, the West of England Combined Authority, and Debby and Nottingham. 

One of the projects being tested will see drones carrying medical supplies from clinics on the Isle of Wight to hospitals on the mainland. Once trials are complete, the drones could be used to transport chemotherapy kits.

The government will also consult on the use of e-scooters - which have grown in popularity in other countries, including the US - including the role local authorities should play in managing their impact. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said:

We are on the cusp of a transport revolution. Emerging technologies are ripping up the rulebook and changing the way people and goods move forever.

Our groundbreaking future of transport programme marks the biggest review of transport laws in a generation and will pave the way for exciting new transport technology to be tested, cementing the UK’s position as a world-leading innovator.

The This review will ensure we understand the potential impacts of a wide range of new transport modes such as e-scooters, helping to properly inform any decisions on legalisation. Funding these new zones across the country will also help us safely test innovative ways to get around, creating a greener future transport system for us all.

The review

The government has said that the review is being undertaken to address areas of regulation that are outdated, a barrier to innovation, or not designed with new technologies and business models in mind. 

It has laid out five core principles that will underpin the ‘values’ of the review. These include: 

  1. Regulation for innovation and safety - whilst the government wants regulation to unlock innovation, rather than hamper it, it also wants to manage any potential negative or unintended consequences

  2. Regulation built on evidence - the framework will support innovation, but only where there is evidence to show it can offer net benefits to society, the environment and the economy

  3. Regulation for agility - any future regulatory framework should be able to adapt more quickly to the technological pace of change

  4. Regulation for multi-modality - regulation should make it easier to develop multi-modal transport systems rather than reinforce modal silos

  5. Regulation with local consent and leadership - what is suitable for one region, city or environment will not necessarily be suitable for another. Where local leaders are keen to lead the way in ‘transport innovation’, the regulatory system should support them to do so. 

The document published today notes that the regulatory framework for the transport industry has been developed gradually over centuries, with a lot of primary regulatory regulation dating back to the 1800s. We have seen, for example, how the regulatory environment has failed to keep up with the changes in the taxi industry, with the likes of Uber growing increasingly popular. 

The government has identified that pacing (the speed of innovation vs regulatory change) and convergence (the blurring of lines between sectors that cut across regulatory boundaries) are two of the biggest challenges facing the review and the future regulatory environment. 

Rachel Maclean, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, commented on the review and said: 

Technology and innovation are already blurring the lines between different transport modes, and the increasing automation of transport will drive this further. 

Our regulatory frameworks for licensing, ticketing, payment and consumer protection need to be more responsive to this, and to single-priced journeys on multiple types of transport becoming the norm. Collaboration between different transport regulators will be critical.

And just as in other areas where technology companies have grown powerful, we want to ensure that they understand their responsibility to meet democratic norms and rules.

To make the UK a world leader in the movement of people, goods and services we need a world-leading regulatory framework for transport. Please take this opportunity to share your views and join with us in making regulation for transport innovation a reality.

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