A hitchhiker's guide to driverless cars


Mott MacDonald transport planners Jannat Alkhanizi and Catherine Tomlin provide a hitchhiker's guide to connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

Many technology investors and commentators agree that we are on the cusp of a transport revolution with the rise of CAVs.

Some predictions suggest a rapid and profound shift in the way we travel. On the other hand, CAVs may have a slower and less dramatic impact. That’s why Mott MacDonald has taken a more considered view of the future of CAVs.


The dynamics of travel are indeed changing, with private tech companies using artificial intelligence and data apps to shape a new, more responsive transport market. The continuing development of CAVs purports to take over our streets in the very near future. This brings forward more questions than answers. Planning for a CAV future becomes an unknown territory with no definitive guidance on where to begin.

A multitude of questions spring to mind including practical queries ranging from should drivers of CAVs require full driving licences to how CAVs would cope with a herd of goats on a mountain road. There is so much information in circulation about CAVs; how can readers be sure to spot those ‘must read’ articles?

Researching, planning and safeguarding is the best approach to addressing the challenges ahead in this brave new world. As the Scouts would say, be prepared. With this in mind, Mott MacDonald has put together a guidebook that explores the key debates surrounding the topic and determine how to respond to a variety of challenges. These challenges range from public perception of CAVs and practical application to uncertainties that CAVs pose for forward planning.

Importantly, issues such as how to ensure safe and acceptable rules of the road, how to shape network efficiency, guarding against adverse consequences for public transport, and ensuring CAV developments enhance mobility for all are addressed.

In addition, it’s crucial to identify the infrastructure implications of CAVs and rethink asset management, as well as consider how to manage demand through changing travel behaviour.

Finally, now is the time to discuss how to manage the transitional period to a CAV-rich future, handle uncertainly in forward planning mobility and track developments through knowledge exchange.

CAVs are no longer simply the subject of science fiction fantasy films but have already materialised and brought challenges for regulators. Our guidebook does not aim to immediately solve all issues that CAVs bring, but it is intended to highlight considerations for our clients and point them towards the support needed.

Future mobility, whether it be CAVs, ride sharing, Hyperloop or drone travel, is deeply uncertain. Changes to people’s patterns of travel behaviour will undoubtedly have long-term consequences for social, economic and environmental wellbeing. It is therefore more crucial than ever that we are planning for the future in ways that harness technological advances to the benefit of society. Now is the time to act.

To learn more about the insights Mott MacDonald has to offer on CAVs, find our report here: 

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