Driving UK innovation with autonomous vehicles
The pace of technological change in the transport industry has accelerated beyond belief. From the first ever automobile to the potential of driverless cars ushering in the next transport revolution, we are constantly striving to innovate and improve our mobility.
There is a huge difference between how we develop and manufacture driverless cars to deploying them on public highways. There are significant challenges to overcome: from the co-existence of driver-controlled vehicles and autonomous vehicles to the policy issues and cultural attitudes which could define their success.
Addressing these issues will require investment of capital, resources and expertise to create a digital infrastructure which is capable of supporting a commercial rollout of autonomous vehicles.
While the challenges appear immense, a new report titled ‘Anticipating autonomous: the UK’s driverless future’, commissioned by London’s Smart Mobility Living Lab (SMLL), shows that the prevailing attitude towards connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) among business leaders is a positive one.
Investing in co-innovation
The UK is rife with innovation. The concept of co-innovation has emerged as a way of promoting better collaboration between the industries and organisations who are leading this innovation.
SMLL is a co-innovation project led by TRL and powered by government and industry partners including Cisco, Transport for London (TFL), DG Cities, Queen Elizabeth Park, Cubic and Loughborough University. The overarching aim of projects such as these is to accelerate the market readiness of CAVs safely, providing easy to access testing for perspective customers so they can fully understand how their vehicles and technologies will behave in a real-world environment. Beyond this, the project has ambitions of creating a mutually beneficial ecosystem – including the public sector, academia, big industry players, start-ups and everyone in between.
Alongside SMLL, the UK is home to Silicon Roundabout and the Golden Triangle, and innovation centres such as Mi-IDEA and IDEALondon showing that the UK possess the resources to disrupt entire industries through technology. However, these hubs and projects aren’t just present in the UK. Across Europe we’re seeing countries such as Estonia, Sweden and France make great strides in terms of innovation, but so far the UK is matching these nations stride for stride.
We cannot stop there. It is vital that the UK maintains this pace, by embracing innovation and collaborating to invest in new projects which will drive change in challenging industries, such as transport and mobility. The key lies in bringing together the right people, united by a common challenge or opportunity.
If there was just one reason for implementing driverless cars in the UK, it would be to make roads safer. For consumers, attitudes towards the safety of CAVs are on a positive trajectory. Deloitte’s 2018 Global Automotive Consumer Study found that less than half (49%) believe that self-driving vehicles will be unsafe, down from 73% in 2017.
Beyond safety, SMLL’s research found that industry experts are excited about the wider role CAVs will play in British society. Almost half (49%) highlighted increased mobility for elderly and disabled people as a key benefit.
With the latest ONS projections showing that there are likely to be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over in 50 years’ time, the potential of CAVs to increase opportunity and mobility for elderly and disabled people is a major benefit.
Improving peoples’ access to the world around them will have a positive impact on quality of life, whilst opening the door to an untapped demographic for local shops, businesses and service providers. In economic terms, our research found that 62% agreed that CAVs would have a positive impact on UK GDP – indicating a belief in the ability of CAVs to bring tangible commercial and societal advantages.
The future looks bright for autonomous vehicles – 84% of those surveyed in our study believe that they will be made available in the UK within the next decade – a huge vote of confidence.
While real-world testing and regulatory standards are crucial to insuring the future viability of CAVs, it is also hugely vital to ensure that the necessary technological infrastructure is in place to support them.
Given the diverse array of challenges to overcome, bringing driverless cars to UK highways will rely on a process of co-innovation – bringing together the leading movers and shakers from the transport, automotive and technology industries with policy makers and local governments. The engine of success for this lies in creating the correct environment. Taking ideas on this journey requires investment, entrepreneurship, collaboration and disruption – key facets which have led to the UK becoming one of the world’s leaders in tech invention.
SMLL optimises this process by bringing together experts such as Cisco, TRL, TFL and DG Cities to collaborate on setting a path to solving the complex web of challenges posed by a commercial rollout of CAVs in the UK.
The testbed will become the place to go for advanced real-world CAV and transport testing – where technology and service providers from related and unrelated industries can look at the entire connected transport environment and get their products and services market-ready, faster.
The UK is leading the charge to create a road network used predominantly by CAVs. The journey has already begun.
Nick Chrissos is the Director of Innovation for Europe at Cisco
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”