Autonomous vehicles will change approach to infrastructure, investment, placemaking and planning

Published on
3 min read

Leading national law firm Mills & Reeve hosted its inaugural ‘Exciting Disruptors’ event exploring how autonomous vehicles are changing the way we think about the approach to the location, design and planning of new settlements and urban extensions of the future.

With presentations from Bosch UK, Peter Brett Associates, the Homes and Communities Agency, and Easymile the event posed some thought-provoking questions. Issues raised included how and, more importantly, if we will continue to own cars, whether autonomous vehicles will ease congestion and pollution, road safety, data and cyber protection, and public acceptance of driverless vehicles. 

The event launched an innovative new ‘Exciting Disruptors Hub’ in which Mills & Reeve clients and sector experts can debate and share ideas on the impact a range of “disruptors”, not only new technology, but also social and demographic changes that will have on the real estate industry.

Beverley Firth, head of real estate at Mills & Reeve, said: “It was fascinating to hear the ’big thinking’ that is already happening in the industry and the event highlighted the need for a cohesive, joined-up approach to the questions that were raised. We hope that this event and the hub will play a part in joining communities together to openly discuss these questions.”

Scott Witchalls, partner at Peter Brett Associates, an independent practice of engineers, planners, scientists and economists that are working at the cutting edge of infrastructure planning, posed the question of whether autonomous vehicles would solve the problems of safety, congestion and pollution and how we should or could embrace emerging technologies to influence design.

He said: “We currently design around our love of cars but our economy is changing and the next generation are becoming less reliant on their car and demanding better access and more travel options, so we need to be smarter and more flexible in our design approach.”

These comments were backed-up by Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, when he announced completely driverless cars will be on the streets of Britain with the next four years.

Stephen Hamilton, a partner at Mills & Reeve and a specialist in the laws around testing and using autonomous vehicles in the UK, spoke about the need to question the ‘one person, one car’ philosophy and how autonomous vehicles aren’t just cars, but also taxis, buses, freight and boats.

He said: “The law assumes that every vehicle shall have a driver and they will be in control of that vehicle at all times. AV is challenging every part of the law from manufacturers, insurers, urban planners and ultimately the buying public.”

The audience also heard from Easymile, who are developing an electric shuttle. Clément Delbouys from Easymile said: “We need to develop driverless vehicles that work alongside more conventional technology. Easymile is already operating in projects around the world including Australia, Dubai and Singapore.”

Click here to see photos from the evening. You can join in the conversation on the Exciting Disruptors Hub here.

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