26 Mar 2019

The Department of Transport (DfT) announced that it is initiating one of the most significant regulatory reviews to ask fundamental questions on how transport and mobility is regulated in the UK. 

Regulation in four relevant areas is already under review: zero emission vehicles, self-driving vehicles, drones and future flight, and maritime autonomy. With the publication on 19 March 2019 of 'Future of mobility - urban strategy', DfT confirms that the review will also take in the following, micromobility vehicles, e.g. e-scooters and e-cargo bike trailers, Mobility as a Service (MaaS), data sharing, and bus, taxi and private hire vehicle legislation. 

Anticipating that new primary legislation will be required in due course, the review will include questions on how different vehicles are defined, where they can be used, and who has the power to make these decisions at the local, regional, and national level. A number of further priorities for 2019 are also signposted by the DfT with further details set out below. 

Micromobility

The rapid development of electric scooters and skateboards, low powered last mile delivery solutions and a blurring of previously long established vehicle definitions means the review will consider future regulation of 'micromobility vehicles'. 

Options for appropriate testing regimes will also be considered to ensure any micromobility vehicles on the road are safe and fit for purpose. As well as identifying basic parameters for safe design and operation, the DfT aims to enable future trials of innovative ideas without the need to change legislation each time; a consultation is promised in due course.

A scoping study to inform an update to the Manual for Streets and a call for evidence into how Traffic Regulation Orders and their data can support future forms of mobility and street design will be initiated. 

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and transport data

Opening up and sharing more data is needed to improve choice and the operation of the transport system. A scoping study will set out additional work required to support data interoperability between transport modes as well as with other systems e.g. energy and smart infrastructure.

The review will assess regulatory tools and potential incentive mechanisms to assist in the opening up of data from multiple service providers, including timetabling and ticketing and pricing data, specifically to facilitate the socially optimal operation of MaaS platforms. This will include consideration of the need for new standards and formats for collating and sharing transport data, as well as a new data sharing framework for transport companies. 

Bus, taxi and private hire vehicle legislation

The department will review the legislation covering flexible bus services with a view to ensuring that dynamic demand responsive bus services are able to operate at the maximum of their potential. The legislation (some of it dating from the 1800s) relating to taxi and private hire vehicles will also be reviewed. 

Connected and self-driving vehicles

The next phase of DfT's review will concentrate on the use of automated vehicles as part of modern public transport networks and on-demand passenger services. Building on the work already carried out by the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission on self-driving vehicles, DfT will consider what new measures may be required to ensure public safety and accessibility in self-driving passenger transport vehicles.

At the same time DfT has stated that it will be looking to build local capability and to support the development of Local Industrial Strategies in places keen to test and trial new mobility services and to provide an evaluation framework for local authorities deploying connected vehicles and infrastructure.

Preparing the urban and built environment 

The department commits to publishing guidance to support local decisions about the design and allocation of urban space. Through close working with MHCLG, the DfT will seek to ensure that changes to the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) help to meet transport objectives, including through alignment with the principles for shaping the future of urban mobility. DfT's strategy also references the National Infrastructure Commission's (NIC) current work with cities, including city knowledge sharing forums, on how to design successful strategies and infrastructure plans, and to create a publicly available source of guidance for city authorities. 

Building 'futures thinking' into decision-making

Following consultation, DfT intends in 2019 to:

  • announce its decision on updating its transport appraisal and modelling modelling strategy to account better for recent and future developments, including in technology;
  • update its WebTAG guidance on transport modelling and appraisal, with an uncertainty toolkit to help transport scheme promoters to take account of future uncertainty in their economic cases; and
  • pilot (with completion in summer 2019) the use of quantitative scenarios in major scheme appraisal, to reflect better the uncertainty associated with technological and other developments.

Delivering on the Road to Zero Strategy 

Stated priorities for 2019 to deliver on the strategy to move to zero emission vehicles include the launch of the £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund to catalyse the rollout of public electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Also, a range of feasibility studies funded through a £40 million programme to develop innovative, low cost charging solutions for electric vehicle owners and users without off street parking. 

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 will ensure that in future people are encouraged to charge their vehicle off-peak. Throughout 2019 DfT will build on some of the significant work already under way, including that of the Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce (which brings together the energy and automotive industries), to plan for future electric vehicle uptake and meeting future energy demand. 

As was signalled by government in the Road to Zero Strategy July 2018, DfT confirms that it will consult on smart requirements for electric car charging and changing building regulations so every new home has a chargepoint. Additionally, it intends to launch a £2 million e-cargo bike grant programme and consult on green number plates to promote awareness and uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles.

Fostering experimentation and trialling

Work across government is seeking to deliver on the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge including, investment in digital connectivity, testing 5G technologies for validating and deploying connected and self-driving vehicles and funding other trials into enabling digital technologies for self-driving vehicles. Through the creation of up to four Future Mobility Zones, with £90 million of funding as part of the Transforming Cities Fund, DfT will support local leaders and industry to trial new mobility services, modes and models. 

Drones and future flight

All drone operators will need to register themselves, and all pilots will be required to take a competence test before being able to fly from November 2019. DfT will continue to take an enabling approach to regulation while keeping the public safe at the same time as working to establish how the UK can best implement policies and systems to enable unmanned traffic management and the operation of drones beyond visual line of sight.

Conclusion

With the publication of this strategy DfT has reiterated a number of the commitments given in the Road to Zero Strategy. It has confirmed that it is committed to managing the transition to cleaner transport, automation, new business models and new modes of travel that promise to transform how people, goods and services move. The principles for shaping the future of urban mobility set out a guide for future decisions. The very wide ranging regulatory review at the core of DfT's programme it considers necessary to modernise laws which it believes are barring innovation and are out of step with the fast pace of technological change. In 2019 we may therefore look forward to a number of further consultations and developments in this fast moving area.