Connected Vehicles – Stepping up a Gear

Andy Graham
Principal, White Willow Consulting

When I handed over the chair of the Connected Vehicles Group at the start of 2023, one of the themes for that meeting was “who pays for connected vehicles”. This was initiated by an update to a report I wrote for the RAC Foundation about where the gaps lie in connected services.

Note I don’t mean automated vehicles– I focus on using data from any sort of vehicle to improve road performance (e.g. signal timings, potholes, safety – I got 90 words in before mentioning my passion eCall!). I also mean information to all sorts of road users to improve their journeys (in vehicle messaging, time to green at signals, better parking…).

That previous report revealed that there were some technology challenges but the update shows these have largely been overcome (see here). What remained – and was increasing clear – was who was going to pay for these services to deploy at scale, rather than as demonstrations pilots?

Unlike an automated vehicle or electric car, there is no clear revenue stream. Drivers don’t pay for fixed signs or variable message signs as they use them, so we can’t really expect them to pay for in vehicle signing.

We debated this with service providers, public and private sector stakeholders and investors in connectivity. The discussion – ably chaired by RAC Foundation Director Steve Gooding – showed there is no one size fits all answer. 

So in my new report (available here) I suggest a smorgasbord of solutions that each address a particular need:

  • Government needs to rapidly fund the digitalisation and core services connectivity needs – Digital Traffic Regulation Order storage, the National Parking Platform, centralised purchase of data from vehicles for all local authorities to use freely and openly;
  • Government still also needs to showcase some emerging services at regional scale to build confidence in their benefits (like we did with sat nav in ,erm, the last century!);
  • Government needs to fund basic services like in vehicle signing, green light speed advice and better use of eCall data, as no-on else will, and as there are social benefits to be had;
  • The private sector should be left to exploit this central, open, high quality data; either through attractive services for customers where they develop clever ways to fund the service, sell to niche users e.g. freight who have a business case, or as philanthropic support for free services (as Google maps does now); and
  • Government needs to fund the skills, training and softer support needed to make the most of  connectivity.

But the key message is to shift up a gear. As autonomy falls into the Gartner “trough of disillusionment”, road users are looking for rapid improvements in their journeys – from less potholes in cycle lanes to joined up parking and EV charging via a single app, and higher levels of safety. Connectivity can provide a tool to help, but as Friends say, “it’s like you’re always stuck in second gear….”

Download ‘Driven by information revisited’, Andy Graham’s new report