Drones and flying cars: Government seeks views on the “future of mobility”

The Department for Transport has today issued a call for evidence on the future for mobility. It is seeking information on what members of the public, lobby groups and other interested parties believe should be the transport priorities for the government.

"This call for evidence seeks views and evidence from all those with an interest in how we get around," says the DfT doc. The submission of evidence should be done online.

While walking and cycling get a mention in the call for evidence it’s clear that the government is most excited about electric cars, autonomous vehicles and even vertical take-off and landing vehicles, in other words, the flying cars that people in the 1950s imagined we’d all be dotting around in by now. 

The"future of mobility" was one of four Grand Challenges established in the government’s post-Brexit Industrial Strategy to "improve people’s lives, increase the country’s productivity and put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future."

The evidence submitted to the DfT could make it into the Future of Urban Mobility Strategy, to be published by the end of 2018. 

"The Strategy will be a short document setting out the principles that will guide Government’s approach to emerging mobility technologies and services in cities," says transport secretary Chris Grayling. 

"It will not duplicate our existing work to support innovation in particular modes, but will take a holistic view of how new developments across modes and technologies should be addressed in the next couple of decades. It will recognise the freedom of cities to shape their own visions for the future, while equipping them with the right tools to realise these visions in a context of change and uncertainty."

The DfT’s call for evidence remarks that people are driving less, and that the UK has an ageing population that will find it tougher to get around.

"The vast majority of urban trips will continue to be short," stresses the DfT.

"Technology is enabling new ways of transporting people and goods. According to one source, global sales of e-bikes were projected to rise from an estimated 31.7 million in 2016 to around 40 million by 2023."

Oh, good, the DfT is about to wax lyrical about e-cargobikes and the "last mile" solution? Nope, that was left for a separate document. The rest of the paragraph on the future of transport is about drones and flying cars.

Drones will cut "operational costs and [expand] their useful applications."

Harking back to the 1950s, the DfT imagines that "vertical take-off and lift vehicles could also be deployed in urban airspace, potentially integrated with surface transport."

Flying cars may pose a few risks, admits the DfT:

"While these transport solutions – and others not currently imagined – have potential to increase consumer choice and drive productivity and efficiency, they may push current regulatory structures and pose new safety, security and privacy concerns.

Mentions of walking and cycling are few and far between (they are practical but not very futuristic modes after all) until this:

"Our approach also needs to deliver on our commitment to make cycling and walking the natural choices for shorter journeys, or as part of a longer journey. As set out in the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, increased use of these sustainable, active modes offers substantial benefits for people, businesses and society."

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