Kit Golda is Zenzic’s Stakeholder Engagement Lead, with a passion for creative and strategic collaboration, and over 15 years’ experience in transformation, innovation and change.
This week I have been in Brussels, filled with curiosity, at the fourth annual European Conference on Connected and Automated Driving (EUCAD) hosted by the European Union in partnership with the Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility (CCAM) Partnership (cooperative being a new prefix to the term CAM for me. Feel free to insert your own joke about uncooperative mobility here).
Sidebar, but I was recently at the London launch of the disruptive Swedish HGV transport company Einride and was struck by their founder, Robert Falck’s enigmatic opening speech. He said he had chosen the UK for his company’s expansion as he felt there was more appetite here for getting things done, as opposed to talking about getting things done, which was the appetite he found most prevalent in Europe – I paraphrase but the sentiment is correct. It was with this in mind that I entered the Charlemagne building opposite the EU headquarters and joined around 600 fellow delegates from across Europe, the US and Japan.
“Electrification is not enough!”
The European Union buildings in Brussels exude a hushed aura of calm and orderliness, and that was very much the tone of the conference. In and amongst the acronyms and pleasantries some interesting themes emerged and I have boiled these down into the list below:
- Net Zero / Smart Cities and CAM agendas are merging, and the EU is looking for ways to combine efforts across these three topics. As one delegate emphatically cried, “Electrification is not enough!”.
- Reassuringly well aligned with Zenzic’s own findings there were two big focuses in the call for short-medium term investment and public funding:
To trial deployment at scale on public roads.
To understand and harmonise the digitisation and connectivity of road infrastructure.
- There was much talk about the need for road authorities, physical and digital infrastructure providers and vehicle manufacturers to work as a unit and get better at exchanging knowledge. One delegate compared the tri-lateral partnership needed here as like that between energy companies, governments and organisations pushing the Net Zero agenda.
- The inability of developers of new vehicles to supply deployment-ready models, in large numbers, is impeding progress. (Please note this was anecdotal but did come up on three separate occasions, so worth considering here.)
- Mainland Europe is investing in cross border testing. Lots of talk about the impact of this on data sharing and data modelling, the need for open data sets and the acknowledgment that digital and physical road infrastructure is far from ready to support this ambition.
So, what do I think now about Falck’s statement on Europe’s appetite for getting things done? Well deploying CAM on a large scale on public roads is complex and the knots CCAM are trying to untie, to turn this jumble into a seamless thread, are universal.
The UK may benefit simply from the fact of having far less stakeholders – for now we only need to reach agreement on things like safety with those that make up the United Kingdom, and do not need to also contend with a further 27 member states. In this respect we may be able to go faster, but in the longer term I also see many advantages that the EU has the potential to recognise – the advent of cross boarder testing and an EU wide knowledge base containing use cases, results, safety frameworks etc seems like a rich opportunity. The need to align with the EU approach is clearly critical to opening up the UK CAM sector to wider markets.
The question I am left with is, how does the UK cooperate with the EU so that we can take advantage of our own autonomy (pun) but also contribute to and benefit from this pooling of knowledge and thinking?
At Zenzic, we are dedicated to championing the UK’s connected and automated mobility ecosystem, and our attendance at the EUCAD conference has further reinforced the importance of our mission. As we move forward, we recognise the need for cooperation with the EU to take advantage of our autonomy while contributing to and benefiting from the pooling of knowledge and thinking.
If you would like to discuss this further, please get in touch.