TfL 'making it up as they go along' on transport tech


Transport for London (TfL) has been 'caught napping' over the major upheaval caused by technological advances, London Assembly members have claimed.

A report by the Assembly’s Transport Committee into ‘Future Transport’ acknowledges that TfL faces a difficult challenge in attempting to predict and prepare for changes in technology and its application to the transport sector but argues that recent developments in the private hire and dockless cycle hire industries suggest that it has been unprepared for new uses of technology by the private sector.


It cites the rapid growth of Uber, whose licence to operate in the capital TfL is seeking to withdraw, and the ‘disruptive’ launch of dockless cycle hire service oBike.

The report finds that

  • Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) or driverless cars won't be on the road until the 2030s at least and could add to congestion
  • Dockless cycle schemes need to be able to operate across London to be effective
  • There is no control system in place for drones and droids

It adds that while TfL is monitoring technological developments, 'this needs to be embedded across the whole organisation'.

Committee chairman Keith Prince AM said: ‘Autonomous vehicles could make roads safer. Dockless bikes could spread the benefits of cycling to the whole city and demand-responsive buses could give people a public transport service tailored to their needs. The opportunity to improve mobility for millions of Londoners is here but it will require proper planning, transparency and accountability, as well as cooperation with government, boroughs and development companies.

'TfL have been caught napping on the technology front and it’s time to wake up. Uber, then oBike are two examples of a poorly prepared regulator which seems to be making it up as they go along.'

The report recommends that London mayor Sadiq Khan, TfL and the Government should:

  • Consider the potential development and impact of autonomous bus technology
  • Examine whether to introduce a London-wide licensing regime for dockless cycle hire
  • Develop the principles of a new regulatory regime for demand-responsive bus services
  • Ensure that data produced by apps powered by underlying TfL data is shared with TfL
  • Consider an integrated control system for ground-based autonomous vehicles and airborne drones

Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation at TfL, said: 'This report outlines the challenges that all cities across the UK, including London, face when considering how transport will operate in the future. We work with a wide range of tech companies around the world to support and learn from innovation that could improve transport across London.

'As part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, many of these elements are already being considered and TfL is involved in a number of pilots and initiatives to help ensure that any introduction of new technology such as autonomous vehicles and drones is safe, environmentally-friendly and consistent with our focus on walking, cycling and green public transport.'


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