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Tech developments in transport

16 April 2020

The UK government has recently published two documents relating to transport. The first is a consultation on a regulatory review of the future of transport, and the other is a plan for decarbonising transport.

Regulatory review

The “Future of transport regulatory review” was first announced in March 2019 as part of the Future of mobility: urban strategy. The urban strategy sets out the government’s approach to innovation in urban transport. It outlines the government’s approach to maximising the benefits from transport innovation in cities and towns. In addition, it sets out the principles that will guide government’s response to emerging transport technologies and business models.

The government has now issued a call for evidence asking for information and views on three areas of the regulatory review. It asks:

  • whether certain micro-mobility vehicles (such as electric scooters) should be permitted on the road, and if so, what vehicle and user requirements would be appropriate;
  • how effective existing rules are around flexible bus services, and which other areas of the bus, taxi and private hire vehicle framework should be considered by the review; and
  • what the opportunities and risks of MaaS platforms might be, and what role central and local governments should play in their development.

This article considers the MaaS issues in more detail.

Mobility as a Service

With increasing availability of data and digital capability in the transport sector, new business models package different modes and services together onto one platform to make planning and payment of trips easier for consumers. This is called ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS), which the government defines as

‘the integration of various modes of transport along with information and payment functions into a single mobility service’.

MaaS platforms provide a layer between mobility providers and consumers, by integrating and analysing data from multiple modes of transport to offer a choice of journeys to consumers. This requires service timetabling and fares data to be interoperable and available to MaaS platform providers, along with the ability for consumers to purchase tickets digitally. There are often commercial or regulatory arrangements between MaaS platform providers and mobility providers underpinning access to this data that regulation needs to be aligned with.

Current legislation and regulation relevant to MaaS is spread across multiple levels of government and is fragmented. Therefore, the government seeks suggestions on where regulatory changes might be required, and whether more guidance is needed to navigate existing regulation. The government has identified a number of areas under four themes where it is looking for more views about whether future regulatory intervention is required:

  • is sufficient digital infrastructure is in place to support innovation (eg MaaS business models rely upon standardised and interoperable data relating to service timetables, routes, fares and ticketing. MaaS platform providers also need to allow for payment transactions so consumers can purchase tickets for journeys offered through the platform);
  • a fair and open market for businesses to innovate, including competition law issues;
  • consumer protection – ie is the current consumer framework adequate; and
  • accessible, inclusive and safe mobility (eg people with disabilities need to be able to say if they have a wheelchair or an assistance dog when booking a journey and there also needs to be clarity on who would be responsible for providing assistance to a disabled person; this also considers digital accessibility and how many people have internet access).

With new digital business models based around data, there may be potential risks to personal data and privacy. Fears over loss of privacy could cause users to give false details or withdraw consent for use, leading to missing, inaccurate or non-representative data which in turn could reduce the quality of service provided.

The government seeks evidence on whether additional intervention relating to data protection is required above the requirements of the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018.

The government also seeks views on the effects on the wider transport system. It will consider the responses to understand what, if any, further changes to regulation may be required. Any formal proposals to change regulation will be subject to further consultation.  Given the wide range of regulation underpinning transport services, the government will also consider whether guidance or a Code of Practice would be useful to clarify the roles and responsibilities for different levels of government, mobility providers and MaaS platform providers.

The deadline for responses is 22 May 2020. 

Decarbonising Transport

The UK government is developing a plan to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport. The Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP) will set out in detail what government, business and society will need to do to deliver the significant emissions reduction needed across all modes of transport, putting the UK on a pathway to achieving carbon budgets and net zero emissions across every mode of transport by 2050.  The aim of the TDP will be to take a coordinated, cross-modal approach to deliver the transport sector’s contribution to both carbon budgets and net zero.

Technical measures, such as the need for rapid renewal of the road vehicle fleet with zero emission vehicles, are well understood and will deliver substantial reductions in emissions over the long term. However, there also needs to be consideration of modes of travel and supply chains in parallel to the rapid development and deployment of clean technology.

The government also wishes to consider how technology and innovation can support major changes to the way people and goods move across the UK and ensure the UK benefits from the opportunities decarbonisation presents.  The government intends to work with various stakeholders to develop a comprehensive plan of actions.

The Government will publish the final plan in Autumn 2020.

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